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Federal Judge Rules Ohio's New Death Penalty Drug Combo Unconstitutional

picture of execution bed
Execution bed

Ohio must delay executing death row inmates after a federal judge ruled that its planned combination of drugs is unconstitutional.

The state planned to carry out its first execution in three years next month using the three-drug mix of Midazolam, a paralytic and potassium chloride.

But a federal judge says that the combination is unconstitutional based on the cruel and unusual punishment clause.

Megan McCracken with the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley says the same mix, when used in previous executions, caused Dennis McGuire to violently struggle and gasp for air.

“It presents significant risks of pain and suffering.”

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since 2014 when inmate Dennis McGuire was put to death. He reportedly showed similar complications during his lethal injection, which also used Midazolam. Tentatively scheduled to die next month is Ronald Phillips of Akron, who killed his girlfriend's 3-year-old child. 

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.