Contentious Debate Erupts Over Lethal Injections photo by Ken Piorkowski photo by Ken Piorkowski
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The Ohio House passed a bill that conceals the identity of companies and pharmacies that provide drugs used for state executions. Supporters—such as Republican Representative Jim Buchy of Greenville—say this measure is needed in order to obtain the drug that’s proven successful during executions in the past.

Buchy: “This is a narrowly defined piece of legislation to provide confidentiality so that they can conduct that job that they’re entrusted to do by law and by decision of courts in capital cases where the guilty has been sentenced to death.”

Ohio has not carried out the death penalty since January—when the problematic execution of Dennis McGuire made headlines around the world. Reports said the convicted murderer and rapist appeared to struggle and gasp for air during the process, though the prisons department said its investigation showed he was executed humanely.

McGuire’s execution was the first time the state used a certain drug combination. The drug the state previously used is no longer available from the manufacturer—but pharmacies can recreate it.

Dan Tierney is spokesperson for Attorney General Mike DeWine. He says extending confidentiality will encourage pharmacies that can make the drug to boost the state’s supply without fearing protest or some type of retribution.

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

Concerns about the bill on the House floor broke into two basic positions—those against the death penalty and those who support open records.

Curtin: “None of us should like secrecy in an open society. It should be as rare as we can make it.”

That’s Democratic Representative Mike Curtin of Columbus. The former journalist expressed his reservations on a bill that extends confidentiality.

Curtin: “This state used to be a model state for openness—open records—open meetings—about 15 years ago we started rolling that back. And if you look at the record we’ve been taking lots of things off of public record—out of the public domain and putting them behind closed doors and that should be a concern—not just to old newspaper people but I think to everybody.”

While Curtin did have his hang-ups on the bill—he still voted in favor of the measure. He cited the efforts to fix parts of the legislation and also noted DeWine’s thoughts on the issue.

Democratic Representative Dan Ramos of Lorain has been a staunch opponent of the death penalty. He says this recent road block is a good excuse for the state to avoid executions—a practice he says—has been used through generations.

Ramos: “What many of them did. What many states did what many nations have done—have basically made it so ‘well it’s still on the books, it’s still there but for one reason or another we make it too complicated to use, well we can’t fit it in with the rest of our constitution we keep it on the books so nobody has to vote against…but we don’t have to use it anymore.’ This has happened for 2,000 years.”

Some members were also upset over the pace at which the bill moved through committee. The measure was introduced just 10 days ago. However it passed mostly along party lines.

The bill now heads to the Senate where it must be approved before the end of the year in order to go to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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