Ohio Lawmakers Drive to Give Anonymity to Drug Makers Who Supply Death Row

Some Ohio Republicans are fighting to keep the identities of pharmaceutical companies, physicians and state employees involved in ending the lives of convicted killers secret, while Utah lawmakers have formulated a Plan B (for bullet) to keep the hope of executions in their state alive.

Ohio and Utah are two of America’s capital punishment states grappling with a drug problem: not enough of the right pharmaceuticals to kill the people judges and juries said should be put to death.

In Ohio, it is all coming down to a debate over keeping the hood on the executioner.

The Ohio Statehouse has approved HB663, which would hide the names of the small pharmaceutical companies the state will need to produce chemicals required for lethal injections.

It would also hide the names of physicians who take part in the executions, along with members of the state’s execution team.

Ohio needs the smaller companies because big pharmaceutical houses have refused to give Ohio and other states the drugs they need to do executions.

Smaller drug-compounding companies are willing to make the cocktails, but said they needed a guarantee of anonymity if they were to start mixing the lethal drug combos.

The Ohio Senate is expected to consider the fast-tracked legislation before the end of the lame-duck legislature. Prison officials want a final decision in December.

Ohio is out of lethal-injection drugs and nearly a dozen prisoners are lined up and waiting for the needle that will end their lives in 2015. But no lethal-injection cocktails means no one will die.

That is just fine with state Sen. Edna Brown (D).

Brown, who is the minority whip of the Ohio Senate, wants to stop the lethal-drug legislation before it reaches Gov. John Kasich’s desk.

James Carmean, Brown’s administrative aide, told PJM she does not only oppose HB663 but also believes “the entire capital punishment system is flawed and that includes the execution process in Ohio.”

But Brown’s proposal to end capital punishment in Ohio, SB 293, stalled in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and has wound up on a legislative death row.

Carmean said it will have to be reintroduced in 2015.

So barring the legislative miracle Brown is working toward, the 11 inmates lined up for the needle in Ohio might as well roll up their sleeves.

Ronald Phillips is scheduled to be the next to die. He is planning on taking his last breath Feb. 11, 2015.

He was convicted of raping and beating to death a 3-year-old girl.

Philips would be dead already — prison chefs expected to start cooking his last supper in September 2014 — but for a problem with the death of another convicted killer, Dennis McGuire, whose execution did not go well.

McGuire’s family said Dennis clenched his fists, gasped and took 20 minutes to die because of a botched lethal injection. Their lawsuit is pending.

The McGuire death prompted a federal judge to issued an injunction blocking any more lethal injection executions until 2015 so that Ohio officials could do a better job of mixing their death-drug cocktails.

Ohio State Rep. Jim Buchy (R) doesn’t have any sympathy for McGuire, who was convicted of killing Joy Stewart and the 22-year-old woman’s unborn child.

“It is a real shame that the challenges experienced during the murderer’s execution have taken attention away from Ms. Stewart, who suffered far more pain and suffering than did her assailant a full quarter-century later,” he wrote in a statement released by his office.

“Consider: The murderer lived longer AFTER committing murder than his innocent victim lived her entire life,” Buchy added.

That logic does not sway Sen. Brown from her mission of ending capital punishment in Ohio.

“Rather than looking to hastily pass laws to continue the extremely flawed execution process in Ohio, I hope the General Assembly will instead take this opportunity to seriously reevaluate why our state continues to pursue capital punishment cases in the first place,” Brown said in a statement released in September 2014 as she introduced legislation to end Ohio’s death penalty.

Brown said the issues raised by the inability of Ohio and other states to find appropriate and reliable drug cocktails to use during executions are just the latest in a long list of reasons to re-evaluate the entire practice.

“A series of botched executions in Ohio and elsewhere reinforces the necessity to abolish this archaic and ill-considered practice rather than providing legal protection for it,” she added.

Utah is also faced with a lethal-drug injection shortage, but State Rep. Paul Ray (R) does not want that to get in the way of killing murderers.

He is backing legislation approved by a state House committee Nov. 20 that would reinstate the use of firing squads in Utah.

Ray admitted there would be some “initial pain,” but told the Salt Lake Tribune a firing squad armed with rifles aimed at a prisoner’s heart would be “absolutely one of the most humane ways to execute someone because it’s so quick and, quite honestly, one of the most painless ways.”

The firing squad bill is expected to be on the agenda for the Utah General Legislative Session in January 2015.