Ohio moves to resume executions under new protocol

Amnesty International is appealing to the authorities in the state of Ohio not to resume executions, following their adoption of a new lethal injection protocol.

Ohio’s decision to introduce the new lethal injection procedures followed the state’s failed attempt to execute Romell Broom on 15 September.

Over two hours, the execution team repeatedly tried and failed to find a useable vein in which to insert the lethal injection needle. They finally gave up.

Ohio is seeking to execute Kenneth Biros on 8 December. Six other death row inmates are scheduled for execution in Ohio in the six months after that.

Ohio’s Attorney General revealed on 13 November that the state had decided to alter its lethal injection procedures, arguing that the changes should end all claims raised in the litigation about how Ohio state authorities carries out executions.

The state authorities have decided to change from a three-drug process to a procedure that uses a large dose of one chemical, thiopental sodium, an anaesthetic.

Secondly, the state has developed a “back-up procedure” for cases when a suitable vein could not be found in a condemned inmate for his or her execution.

This procedure would involve injecting a combination of two chemicals, midazolam and hydromorphone, into a large muscle of the prisoner such as the thigh.

Ohio would be the first state to change to this method. Jonathan Groner MD, Professor of Clinical Surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, has described Ohio’s proposal to Amnesty International as “an experiment”.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said that the changes would become effective by 30 November 2009, “in sufficient time to conduct the execution of Kenneth Biros”.

On 13 November, the District Court judge overseeing the litigation rejected the state’s bid for an expedited schedule so that it could execute Kenneth Biros with its new method on 8 December.

The state has appealed to the US Court of Appeals to have the current stay of execution, previously imposed by the District Court, lifted.

On 17 November, the Ohio parole board recommended against clemency.

The six other Ohio inmates currently scheduled for execution are: Abdullah Sharif Kaazim Mahdi (7 January 2010); Mark Brown (4 February); Lawrence Reynolds (9 March); Darryl Durr (20 April); Michael Beuke (15 May); and Richard Nields (10 June).

Amnesty International considers that the death penalty can never be rendered humane, regardless of the method of execution.

The organization is reminding the Ohio authorities that a clear majority of countries have abandoned executions and that the death penalty is not an option even in international tribunals considering the crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

It is calling for a moratorium on executions in the State of Ohio, pending abolition of the death penalty.