OHIO (USA): DENNIS MCGUIRE GASPED AND CLUTCHED HIS CHEST FOR 10 MINUTES AFTER RECEIVING UNTESTED LETHAL INJECTION COMBO
January 16, 2014: Dennis McGuire was executed in Ohio. He took 15 minutes to die.
McGuire was first injected with the drugs at 10:29 a.m. He was still for five minutes before emitting a loud snort as if snoring and continued to make this noise for several minutes. His stomach rose and fell several times, as he repeatedly opened and shut his mouth, making what the Columbus Dispatch described as 'deep, rattling sounds.' A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire's last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m., after one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.
His attorneys had argued against using intravenous doses of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, claiming the combination would cause 'air hunger' - where someone experiences immense terror and agony as they strain for breath during the execution.
The court rejected the argument even as it acknowledged that his execution would be an "experiment" that could go wrong. A federal judge sided with the state and gave the green light for the execution to proceed. At the request of McGuire's lawyers, Judge Gregory Frost on Wednesday also ordered the state to photograph and then preserve the drugs' packaging boxes and vials and the syringes used in the execution.
McGuire's snorts and gasps, and prolonged death, suggest he may have indeed suffered the medical phenomenon and could prompt Ohio officials to review using the drug cocktail. Previous executions with the former execution drugs took much less time, and typically did not include the loud sounds that McGuire uttered.
In an opinion piece written for CNN earlier this week, a law professor noted that McGuire’s attorneys argued he would “suffocate to death in agony and terror.” “The state disagrees but the truth is that no one knows exactly how McGuire will die, how long it will take or what he will experience in the process,” wrote Elisabeth A. Semel, clinic professor of law and director of the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the anti-capital punishment Death Penalty Information Center, told NBC News after the execution that McGuire's gasps may lead the state or the courts to rethink the new drug combination. 'This doesn’t sound like it was a complete disaster but they don't want anything that even has the appearance of someone suffering or a delay in death being carried out,' Dieter said. 'This is going to be looked at with good concern.' It is not unheard of for an execution to take 15 minutes or even longer, but Dieter told the network that if the prisoner was physically struggling much of that time, it could be seen as cruel. 'This sounds like more discomfort than they would want in carrying out an execution,' he said.
Sergio D’Elia, Secretary of Hands Off Cain, said: “This proves, once again, that there is no kind, painless, “humane” way to carry out the death penalty.” “What happened in Ohio is a patent violation of the United States’ constitutional principle prohibiting “cruel and unusual” punishment. It’s time that the U.S. freed itself from such an archaic and barbaric way of achieving justice.” McGuire, 53, White, was sentenced to die for the Feb. 11, 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman, Joy Stewart, 22. Stewart's slaying went unsolved for 10 months until McGuire, jailed on an unrelated assault and hoping to improve his legal situation, told investigators he had information about the woman's February 12, 1989, death. His attempts to blame the crime on his brother-in-law quickly unraveled and soon he was accused of being Stewart's killer, according to prosecutors.
More than a decade later, DNA evidence confirmed McGuire's guilt, and he acknowledged that he was responsible in a letter to Governor John Kasich last month.
McGuire becomes the first inmate executed this year in Ohio, the 53rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999, the 3rd inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1362th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. (Sources: Associated Press and Hands Off Cain, 16/01/2014)