After a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, Ohio is again free to tinker with the machinery of death.
Ohio has not executed anyone since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire was put to death by lethal injection in a botched execution. But two developments in the last month have cleared the way for the state to resume executions.
In June, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, meeting en banc, ruled 8-6 to overturn an injunction against the state’s lethal injection protocol.
This week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Merz dismissed additional challenges filed by four inmates, who have exhausted their appeals, who argued that the three drug protocol, which includes midazolam, potassium chloride, and a paralytic agent, violates the Eighth Amendment by “experimenting” on them. Merz referred to the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in his decision.
In that ruling, writing for the majority, Judge Raymond Kethledge found that, while “the plaintiffs have shown some risk that Ohio’s execution protocol may cause some degree of pain . . . some risk of pain ‘is inherent in any method of execution . . . . ’” And, furthermore, the court ruled, the Constitution does not guarantee “a pain-free execution.”
Ohio is scheduled to execute Ronald Phillips on July 26. The state has three other executions scheduled for later this year, with a total of 27 planned through 2021.