The Toledo Blade reports that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is putting executions on hold because, he said today, “Ohio is not going to execute someone on my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment.”
DeWine was referring to a January decision by a federal judge in response to a challenge of the state’s use of midazolam in executions by attorneys for condemned prison Warren Hennes, who was scheduled to be executed last Wednesday. “If Ohio executed Warren Hennes under its present protocol, it will almost certainly subject him to severe pain and needless suffering. Reading the plain language of the Eighth Amendment, that should be enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment.…We have good evidence that midazolam will cause the ‘waterboarding’ effects of pulmonary edema.”
However, Judge Michael Merz did not call off the execution, pointing to a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required Henness to offer an alternative execution method that is “available, feasible, and can be readily implemented,” and since he did not, Merz said he had no choice but to allow the execution to proceed.
Instead, DeWine postponed the execution to September 12, and ordered the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction to “to assess Ohio’s current options for execution drugs and examine possible alternative drugs.”
But today, according to the Blade, he ordered the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to come up a with a new lethal injection protocol. He said he expects the new protocol will be challenged in court, with a ruling taking months and even years, and that during that time, “We certainly could have no executions.”
DeWine, a Republican and former state attorney general who has defended the state’s death penalty law in court, and co-sponsored the law when he was in the state Senate, did not answer when asked by reporters if he was personally opposed to capital punishment.
Ohio’s next execution is scheduled for May, but with today’s announcement, it doesn’t seem likely it will go forward.
You can read the Blade’s story here.