Ohio Set To Plow Ahead With Executions Despite State's Grisly Past

After a three-year pause to assess the flaws in their death penalty system, Ohio has failed to evolve and will commence with state-sanctioned killings once again.

Close up of a syringe.

After a three and a half year halt to inmate executions, Ohio is poised to begin state-sanctioned killings again as early as Wednesday, Common Dreams reports.

However, they are doing so with no indication that they've learned anything from their gruesome past.

In 2014, Ohio executed convicted murderer Dennis McGuire in what was described by a witness as 26 minutes of extreme suffering. His state-sanctioned killing was as much scientific experiment as it was misguided sense of justice, as it involved a new and untested combination of drugs.

Death row inmates challenged the new concoction as cruel and unusual, as did McGuire's family, and the component midazolam came under fire for the botched execution. Ohio was forced to search for other lethal injection drugs to buy despite an ever-growing international community unwilling to sell.

However, the hiatus has apparently come to an end, barring interference from the Supreme Court. Little has changed though, and the Toledo Blade reports that the state uses "a new three-drug protocol, a combination it has never used." Midazolam is once again part of the lethal concoction, but this time it will be administered at a higher dose than in previous executions. It's another experiment and yet another example of how irreparably flawed the death penalty is.

Last week, a petition containing 27,000 signatures was delivered to Gov. John Kasich's office begging him to halt the upcoming executions.

"We are not asking the state to turn its back on people who commit serious crimes. We are in favor of hard-life sentences for people who commit despicable crimes," said Pastor Carl Ruby of the Central Christian Church, "but the death penalty eliminates the possibility we got it wrong."

Two former Ohio attorney generals have also taken a bi-partisan stand against the death penalty. Republican Jim Petro and Democrat Lee Fisher wrote a piece for Cleveland.com clearly stating their strong condemnation of the state's decision to move forward with inmate executions without addressing the many unsolved problems.

"The most significant issue is the state's own failure to act on needed changes to the death penalty system. In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty released a report outlining numerous, systemic problems with the state's capital punishment system, and detailed recommendations to make the system fairer, more reliable, and more just," they wrote.

"Yet none of the most consequential recommendations have so far been adopted, allowing the serious, systemic problems inherent in Ohio's capital punishment laws and practices to continue," they added.

The task force chairman himself, retired Judge James Brogan, issued a statement in which he said, "Those charged with ensuring our capital punishment system is fair and accurate have failed to act."

"More than three years have passed since we issued our report of 56 recommendations yet virtually nothing has changed," he continued. "This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions."

Unless appeals by human rights groups are heard, convicted rapist and murderer Ronald Phillips is scheduled for lethal injection with the new mix on Wednesday. The death penalty is already a contentious subject unto itself, and the United States remains divided on whether or not it is justice or state-sanctioned murder.

The inhumane treatment of inmates as test subjects in their dying shows that the death penalty can be as cruel as the crimes of those on death row. Justice is many things, but it's certainly not that.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Kurt Morrow

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