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USA: Ohio looking to execute under new protocol

, N° d'index: AMR 51/117/2009

The State of Ohio has announced new lethal injection procedures and is looking to resume executions. It is seeking to execute Kenneth Biros on 8 December 2009. Five other male prisoners in Ohio are also scheduled for execution in the coming months.

Further Information on UA: 253/09 Index: AMR 51/117/2009 USA Date: 18 November 2009
The State of Ohio has announced new lethal injection procedures and is looking to resume
executions. It is seeking to execute Kenneth Biros on 8 December. Five other male prisoners in
Ohio are also scheduled for execution in the coming months.
Litigation on Ohio’s lethal injection process has continued since 15 September, when the state attempted to
execute Romell Broom. Over the course of two hours, the execution team repeatedly tried and failed to find a
useable vein in which to insert the lethal injection needle, before finally giving up (see UA 245/09, AMR
51/104/2009, and update AMR 51/109/2009). On 13 November, Ohio’s Attorney General revealed 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 the Ohio authorities carry out executions. The 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 cannot 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. In addition, the state has rejected the
claim that condemned inmates have the right to the presence of their lawyers during the execution process.
The Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said that the changes would become
effective by 30 November, “in sufficient time to conduct the execution of Kenneth Biros” on 8 December. On 13
November, the US 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. The Ohio parole board
has voted against clemency for Kenneth Biros (see overleaf). Five other Ohio inmates are currently scheduled for
execution: Abdullah Sharif Kaazim Mahdi (7 January 2010); Mark Brown (4 February); Darryl Durr (20 April);
Michael Beuke (15 May); and Richard Nields (10 June).
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or your own language, in your own words:
Expressing concern that Ohio is seeking to execute Kenneth Biros on 8 December and has scheduled a number
of other executions for the coming months;
noting the announced change to Ohio’s lethal injection protocol, and arguing that the death penalty can never be
rendered humane, regardless of the method of execution;
pointing out 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;
calling for a moratorium on executions in the State of Ohio, pending abolition of the death penalty.
Governor Ted Strickland
Governor’s Office, Riffe Center, 30th
77 South High Street, Columbus,
OH 43215-6108, USA
Fax: +1 614 466 9354
Salutation: Dear Governor
Richard Cordray, Ohio Attorney
30 E. Broad St., 17th Floor,
Columbus, OH 43215, USA
Fax: +1 614 728 7583
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
Terry J. Collins, Director
Department of Rehabilitation and
770 West Broad Street, Columbus,
Ohio 43222, USA
Fax: +1 614 752 1171
Salutation: Dear Director Collins
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives of the USA accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals
after the above date. This is the second update of UA 253/09 (AMR 51/107/2009). Further information:
www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/107/2009/en and www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/109/2009/en.
Date: 18 November 2009
Kenneth Biros, aged 51, was sentenced to death for the murder of Tami Engstrom in 1991. In a report sent to Governor
Strickland on 17 November 2009, the Ohio Parole Board recommended that the governor deny clemency. The recommendation
is not binding on the governor. The Ohio Parole Board also voted against recommending a reprieve while the lethal injection
litigation continues, adding that “the courts are the most appropriate place to decide whether additional time is warranted before
execution to further litigate the issues surrounding lethal injection”. The board previously denied clemency in 2007, but Kenneth
Biros received a stay of execution at that time as a result of his case being included in the litigation already underway in relation
to Ohio’s then three-drug lethal injection protocol.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, unconditionally, regardless of the method chosen to kill the
condemned prisoner. The death penalty is inherently cruel and degrading, a punishment that is incompatible with human dignity.
To end the death penalty is to abandon a destructive, diversionary and divisive public policy that is not consistent with widely
held values. It not only runs the risk of irrevocable error, it is also costly, to the public purse as well as in social and psychological
terms. It has not been proved to have a special deterrent effect. It tends to be applied in a discriminatory way, on grounds of race
and class. It denies the possibility of reconciliation and rehabilitation. It prolongs the suffering of the murder victim’s family, and
extends that suffering to the loved ones of the condemned prisoner. It diverts resources that could be better used to work against
violent crime and assist those affected by it.
Today, some 139 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. International law is abolitionist in outlook, seeking to have
retentionist countries narrow the applicability of the death penalty with a view to ending its use altogether. Consistent with this,
even those tried by international tribunals for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community crimes against
humanity, genocide and war crimes cannot be subjected to the death penalty. In July 2002, the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court came into force. Under Article 77 of the Statute, the maximum penalty which the Court can impose
is life imprisonment, subject to review after 25 years.
The USA has carried out 1,182 executions since resuming judicial killing in 1977, with 1,010 carried out by lethal injection, the
method currently promoted by advocates of the death penalty as "humane." There have been 46 executions in the USA this year,
45 by lethal injection. Ohio has carried out 32 executions, four of them this year. All Ohio’s executions have been carried out by
lethal injection. Ohio would be the first state in the USA to adopt a one-drug lethal injection method.
Of Ohio’s proposal, Jonathan Groner MD, Professor of Clinical Surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, has said
to Amnesty International: “’Plan A’ of the new Ohio execution protocol uses one drug administered intravenously. Thus, problems
such as occurred with Romell Broom’s execution are not solved by ‘plan A.’ Furthermore, it is not clear how an inmate will react
to getting a huge dose of thiopental. In the 3-drug version, a smaller dose of thiopental was given, followed immediately by a
paralytic, which blocks all responses. Without the paralytic (and with the huge dose of thiopental), how will the inmate react?
Will he jerk, have a seizure, vomit? Will he have agonal respirations for an hour? Or will he just slowly turn blue? ‘Plan B’
requires intramuscular injection of two drugs. As far as I know, intramuscular injection of drugs is never used in clinical practice
to achieve ‘surgical plane of anaesthesia’ (meaning that the patient is so deeply comatose as to be able to endure an operation,
or, in the case of lethal injection, death by asphyxiation). Thus, my opinion is that it is, indeed, an experiment.”
Further Information on UA: 253/09 Index: AMR 51/117/2009 Issue Date: 18 November 2009

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