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Ohio governor delays more executions as drugs reviewed

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has delayed three more executions after a federal judge compared Ohio’s death penalty method to “waterboarding.”

DeWine has asked state prison officials to come up with an alternative to Ohio’s current three-drug method of lethal injection. The first drug, midazolam, would cause the “waterboarding” effects of pulmonary edema, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz wrote in a Jan. 14 decision.

Until Ohio can execute prisoners without violating their Eighth Amendment rights, the state won’t execute anyone, DeWine told reporters last month.

“As long as the status quo remains and we don’t have a protocol that has been found to be OK, we certainly cannot have any executions in Ohio,” DeWine said. “That would not be right, at least in my opinion.”

Feb. 27: Supreme Court blocks death sentence for murderer with dementia who can’t remember crime

Feb. 7: Alabama executes Muslim inmate Domineque Ray who asked for imam to be present

In response to the January decision, DeWine delayed the execution of Warren Henness, who was convicted of killing Richard Myers in Columbus in 1992. Henness’ execution is now scheduled for Sept. 12.

He delayed three more executions Thursday:

  • Cleveland Jackson, convicted of killing 17-year-old Leneshia Williams and 3-year-old Jayla Grant in 2002 in Lima, was set to be executed May 29. His execution was delayed until Nov. 13. 
  • Kareem Jackson, convicted of killing Terrance L. Walker and Antorio Hunter in 1997 in Columbus, was set to be executed July 10. His execution was delayed until Jan. 16, 2020. 
  • Gregory Lott, convicted of killing John McGrath, 82, by setting him on fire in 1986, was set to be executed Aug. 14. His execution was delayed until March 12, 2020.

DeWine delayed the executions because the new execution protocol isn’t finished. Any new methods would almost certainly be challenged in court. Still, DeWine said in a news release that he was mindful of the emotional trauma these delays can have on victims. 

DeWine, who co-sponsored Ohio’s death penalty laws in 1981, describes himself as pro-life and a practicing Catholic. When asked by reporters, he wouldn’t say whether he has any personal misgivings about the death penalty.

Jan. 6: Scott Dozier, the Nevada death row inmate who wanted to be executed, found dead in cell

Dec. 14: Death penalty sentences, executions remained at near-record lows in 2018

“It is the law of the state of Ohio, and I will let it go at that,” DeWine said. 

Whether any of these executions happens on the new dates is up in the air. Ohio, like other death penalty states, has struggled to find drugs for lethal injection. Even if it announced a new procedure this month, the method would then undergo months or years of court scrutiny.

After Ohio started looking for new drugs in 2014, it took the state more than three years to establish its current three-drug lethal injection protocol. Since then, it has become even more difficult for states to find drugs.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Jessie Balmert on Twitter: @jbalmert

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