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Ohio Executes Killer With New, Slow-Acting Drugs; Faces Lawsuit

Image: Ohio Executes Killer With New, Slow-Acting Drugs; Faces Lawsuit

By Clyde Hughes   |   Friday, 17 Jan 2014 10:55 AM

The troubled execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire raised questions this week about Ohio's new lethal drug cocktail, which took more than 15 minutes to fully kick in, leaving the man struggling against his restraints as he gasped for air.

McGuire was convicted in the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart, a 22-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant and newly married. According to Cleveland.com, relatives of both Stewart and McGuire witnessed the execution at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville Thursday.

McGuire's family released a statement Friday detailing their plans to file a federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio for violating McGuire's 8th Amendment right by subjecting him to "cruel and unusual punishment," the Columbus Dispatch reported.

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"Shortly after the warden buttoned his jacket to signal the start of the execution, my dad began gasping and struggling to breathe," Amber McGuire, Dennis McGuire's daughter, said in a statement. "I watched his stomach heave. I watched him try to sit up against the straps on the gurney. I watched him repeatedly clench his fist. It appeared to me he was fighting for his life but suffocating."

Sheila Gray, a reporter at WCHS-TV, described McGuire's struggle during the execution on Twitter Thursday.

Another reporter who witnessed the execution, Alan Johnson of the Dispatch, reported that McGuire struggled to breath for about 10 to 13 minutes.

"He gasped deeply. It was kind of a rattling, guttural sound. There was kind of a snorting through his nose. A couple of times, he definitely appeared to be choking," Johnson told reporters.

Many states were forced last year to find new drugs for executions when European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using theirs. Danish-based Lundbeck, which produces pentobarbital, was one of the main U.S. suppliers, according to CNN.

Ohio corrections officials told CNN that the state has switched to a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone.

Allen Bohnert, one of McGuire's federal public defenders, told the Dispatch that his client's prolonged execution was a "failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio. The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled by what was done in their name."

The Stewart family issued a statement before Thursday's execution.

"There has been a lot of controversy regarding the drugs that are to be used in his execution, concern that he might feel terror, that he might suffer," it read. "As I recall the events preceding her death, forcing her from the car, attempting to rape her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, I know she suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."

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