Eight death row prisoners given stay of execution in lethal injections wrangle

Ohio's governor delayed eight executions amid a court fight over the constitutionality of state's lethal injection process.

Kasich said he plans to restart the execution schedule on May 10.

One prisoner Ronald Phillips was set to be executed on 15 February, but that has now been pushed to 10 May.

Executions have been put on hold in OH since January 2014, when the state used midazolam during the execution of Dennis McGuire, who appeared to gasp for breath in the 26 minutes until his death.

The drug has also been used during botched executions in Arizona, Oklahoma and Alabama.

The state had planned to resume using midazolam in a new lethal injection protocol this year, but in January a federal judge rejected the state's three-drug procedure, on the grounds that midazolam is not sufficiently humane in its effects, as we have reported.

Mr Kasich said he is confident the state will win an appeal based on a prior ruling in the Supreme Court that upheld the use of midazolam in a three-drug process.

A federal appeals court will decide whether a three-drug cocktail that includes the controversial sedative midazolam can be used to kill death-row prisoners, but the panel isn't expected to rule for weeks.

Lawyers argue the proposed method could be in violation of the constitutional protection from "cruel and unusual" punishments.

In its appeal papers, OH said it had asked corrections departments in Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, and Florida to share their pentobarbital "but was rebuffed".

OH is among several states that have had problems obtaining drugs used in lethal injections.

The US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear arguments on 21 February.

OH was the second state to adopt the electric chair as its preferred method of capital punishment in 1897, and reinstated the death penalty in 1974 after a hiatus - although it did not resume executions until 1999.

  • Larry Hoffman