The use of lethal injections will no longer be allowed for executions in the state of Ohio, and an alternative method must be found if capital punishment is to continue in the state, Governor Mike DeWine said this week.
In an interview with the AP, DeWine (R) said that there is already an “unofficial moratorium” on the death penalty in the state, and that it seems unlikely that any executions will occur next year.
If capital punishment is to continue in the state, lawmakers must find an alternative method of execution, DeWine said, though he did not think that would be a priority of the state’s legislature.
“Lethal injection appears to us to be impossible from a practical point of view today,” the governor told the AP.
DeWine’s decision comes after previously expressed concerns about the suffering the drugs cause, as well as a shortage of available drugs for lethal injection, as many drug manufacturers refuse to provide drugs for executions.
In early 2019, in his first death penalty-related act as governor, DeWine ordered a temporary stay on executions and asked the state prison system to look for alternatives to lethal injections. According to the AP, DeWine’s order came shortly after a federal judge had found that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol caused “severe pain and needless suffering.”
The death penalty has been under severe scrutiny in Ohio for years. In one notable case in 2014, a new lethal injection protocol was first used on Dennis McGuire, who had pled guilty to raping and killing a pregnant 22 year-old woman named Joy Stewart.
From the time of injection, the drugs took more than a quarter of an hour to kill McGuire, who snorted and writhed before dying, the Washington Post reported. McGuires attorneys at the time called the procedure “untested and inhumane,” and McGuire’s spiritual director, Fr. Lawrence Hummer, called the execution “an evil act.”
A new lethal injection protocol was established and first used in 2017, though some of the drugs under this protocol were also either scarce or under legal scrutiny for potentially causing too much suffering.
Robert Van Hook, who fatally choked and stabbed a man in 1985, was the last person to die by lethal injection under Ohio’s death penalty in July 2018.
DeWine told the AP on Tuesday that while he still supports the death penalty as a law, he is less sure of its efficacy in preventing crime than when he originally helped to craft the state’s current policy.
DeWine said he is “much more skeptical about whether it meets the criteria that was certainly in my mind when I voted for the death penalty and that was that it in fact did deter crime, which to me is the moral justification.”
Advocates who oppose the death penalty in Ohio have called on the state legislature to officially ban capital punishment.
“It’s time for the General Assembly to just end the death penalty in Ohio and repurpose the funds wasted trying to execute people into programs to better serve the needs of murder victim families,” Abraham Bonowitz, Death Penalty Action director, told the AP.
Catholic bishops and leaders of Ohio have numerous times called for the end of the death penalty in the state.
“The Catholic Church believes that the death penalty is an unnecessary and systemically flawed form of punishment,” the Ohio Catholic Conference said in a 2017 statement, following the execution of convicted child murderer Ronald Phillips.
“The Catholic bishops of Ohio sought mercy for Mr. Phillips because of the belief that spiritual conversion is possible and that all life – even that of the worst offender – has value and dignity.”