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DeWine Says He Doesn't Expect Executions to Resume as Scheduled in February

Attorney General Mike DeWine speaks at a press conference earlier this year. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
Attorney General Mike DeWine speaks at a press conference earlier this year. (Nick Castele / ideastream)

Ohio’s only execution in 2014 will be the problematic lethal injection of Dennis McGuire in January.

It was the longest execution on record for Ohio, and McGuire appeared to be choking and gasping during it, though the prisons department’s review of the execution says it was done humanely.

It was the first time the state used a two-drug combination, since it couldn’t find the one single drug it prefers to use. The state planned to up the dosage of the two drugs it used in the McGuire execution, but federal judge Gregory Frost stopped that plan and all executions set for the rest of the year until the state had more information about what it planned to do.

Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine said in an interview before a newspaper editorial board that he now doubts that next execution, that of Ronald Phillips on Feb. 11, will happen. His spokesman Dan Tierney said DeWine doesn’t expect executions to resume until some changes are made by lawmakers – first of all, guaranteeing anonymity for pharmacies that would make that single drug the state wants to use.

“The drugs being used in executions are not being provided to the department," Tierney said. "And so one possible source could be compound pharmacies, but allowing the compound pharmacies and the pharmacist that compound the drugs to remain anonymous.”

And Tierney also says DeWine expects legislators to look over the ethics laws for doctors, who can’t help the state in the lethal injection process for fear that they’ll face legal action.

At first, advocates against execution were pleased to hear DeWine say he doesn’t expect any more executions for a while. But Kevin Werner with Ohioans to Stop Executions said that excitement faded when they heard the changes that DeWine was talking about.

“That’s a change that we think takes Ohio in the wrong direction," Wener said. "But certainly we all agree that if the death penalty is going to remain part of Ohio’s law, that it has to be fair, it has to be accurate.”

Tierney said DeWine isn’t changing his position on the death penalty.

DeWine’s Democratic opponent David Pepper, who was also at the editorial board meeting, doesn’t agree with DeWine often, but he also is not against capital punishment. And Pepper said lawmakers should consider any new death penalty legislation carefully, and said executions should be on hold until these concerns raised earlier this year are resolved.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.