Conservative lawmakers in Ohio’s General Assembly are pushing a new bill, HB 663, that would exempt from public records laws details about those who supply lethal injection drugs to the state.
The bill is cosponsored by State Reps. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, and Matt Huffman, R-Lima.
Ohio hasn’t been able to find a source for lethal injection drugs because no companies want to be associated with supplying it.
“These changes are necessary because Ohio and most other states have exhausted their options for purchasing chemicals used in lethal injections, largely because European manufacturers will not sell drugs for executions,” Buchy said last week.
Ohio had to suspend executions due to the prolonged death of Dennis McGuire last January (“A Cruel and Unusual Death,” issue of Jan. 29).
McGuire was killed using a new combination of two drugs, which the state had to resort to because the company that manufactures the original drug has refused to sell it for use in executions. As McGuire died, witnesses say he was gasping for breath.
The state says he was asleep and did not experience discomfort, but his 25-minute-long execution prompted a federal judge to issue a temporary stay on executions.
Some Democrats, including State Rep. Mike Curtin of Columbus, have objected to the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has also called foul on the move to seal execution drug records.
“With botched executions and growing controversy around lethal injections in Ohio, Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere, a federal judge in Ohio rightfully paused executions so the state could thoughtfully consider new protocols,” said ACLU Ohio Policy Director Mike Brickner. “Now, the legislature is attempting to circumvent the courts and the public. This legislation is not only a bad idea, it is bad governance to ram through during a post-election session without due and serious consideration.”
The Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee held a hearing on the bill last week, and it looks to be moving forward quickly. Republicans in the General Assembly have said they’d like to pass the legislation before the year is over.
The next scheduled lethal injection will take place Feb. 11 unless federal courts order more delays. In response to the drug dilemma, some lawmakers, including Buchy, are also calling for alternative execution methods, including returning to the electric chair, to be considered.