Ohio obtains hundreds of vials of lethal drugs
The state has obtained hundreds of vials of lethal-injection drugs, allowing it to put a condemned child killer to death next month and conduct multiple executions after, records show.
Inventory logs obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show the state received supplies three times in September and October for the first drug used in the process, a sedative called midazolam, which has been at the center of several lawsuits over lethal injection.
The records show the state obtained supplies twice in September and October for the second drug used in the process and three times in September for the third drug.
The state has said the drugs it plans to use on the first three executions this year are standard drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though it won't say where they came from.
Attorneys representing death row inmates have been unable to identify the suppliers or producers because of the 2015 law and because recent federal court rulings bar them from obtaining the information through usual evidence channels.
The logs show the state could conceivably carry out dozens of executions with these supplies. What is unclear are the expiration dates for the drugs - information not provided on the logs - which could control whether they're available for future executions.
A spokeswoman for the Ohio prisons agency declined to comment.
The state plans to execute Ronald Phillips on Feb. 15 for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron. Seven other executions also are scheduled this year.
The logs obtained by the AP show:
- The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction received 750 vials of midazolam on Sept. 9, 750 vials again on Oct. 3 and 100 vials on Oct. 27. That could be enough for as many as 40 executions.
- The state received 150 vials of rocuronium bromide, a paralytic drug and the second drug administered, on Sept. 9 and 80 vials of the drug on Sept. 30. Ten of those vials would be enough for one execution.
- The state received 12 vials of potassium chloride, a drug that stops the heart and the last drug administered, on Sept. 9, 12 vials on Sept. 23 and 150 vials on Sept. 30. That could be enough for dozens of executions.
Ohio and other states have struggled to find legal supplies of execution drugs.
Drugmakers have by and large put their drugs off-limits for executions. Last year, Pfizer put seven drugs off-limits, including the three drugs to be used by Ohio. But drugs like midazolam are widespread, found everywhere from dental offices to veterinary clinics, making it difficult to trace the origin.
Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution since the state resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.
The state used a two-drug method with McGuire, starting with midazolam, its first use for executions in the country.
Attorneys challenging Ohio's new three-drug method say midazolam is unlikely to relieve an inmate's pain. The drug, which is meant to sedate inmates, also was used in a problematic 2014 execution in Arizona. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in a case out of Oklahoma.
The drug "does not have pain blocking properties" or make inmates unaware of pain, federal public defender Erin Barnhart argued in a federal court hearing in Dayton on Monday.
The state says the three-drug method is similar to its past execution process, which survived court challenges. State attorneys also say the Supreme Court ruling last year makes clear the use of midazolam is allowable.
Death row inmates "must demonstrate a substantial risk of severe pain" from midazolam, something their attorneys haven't done, Ohio Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Lowe argued.
Testimony in the hearing challenging the state's execution method wrapped up Monday. Federal Magistrate Judge Michael Merz urged lawyers for both sides to agree quickly on what evidence they want entered before him, emphasizing how soon Phillips' execution is and how important it is he have time to make a decision.
"I've got to get this right," Merz said, "because a man's life depends on it."