The state of Ohio is facing a legal challenge over its choice of drugs used in executions by lethal injection after a convicted murderer suffered what his lawyer described as an “agonizing” death that violated his constitutional rights.
Jon Paul Rion, the family lawyer representing 53 year-old Dennis McGuire (who was convicted of the rape and murder of a pregnant woman in 1989) said that the cocktail of drugs chosen to kill McGuire violated the 8th Amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. According to one witness who declined to be named, McGuire appeared to gasp for air for at least ten minutes following the administration of the injection:
[box type=”shadow”]”He gasped deeply, there 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.”[/box]
Ohio was forced to alter its choice of drugs used after the Danish pharmaceutical company which had previously provided them halted all exports to the state following a European Union (EU) ban on exporting drugs known to be used in capital punishment. Mr. Rion said that his client’s execution represented “a failed experiment” and he is expected to hold a news conference outlining his case against the state.
Like many U.S. states, in recent years, Ohio has struggled to obtain the necessary drugs to perform lethal injections. This is due to the above-mentioned ban on the export of certain drugs which applies to all pharmaceutical companies within the EU if they know that they will be used in executions.
The use of capital punishment is illegal in the EU under Article II of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. All states that wish to join the EU must first ban the death penalty for all crimes. Great Britain was the first country to ban the export of drugs used in capital punishment in the U.S. in 2010, citing the European Union Torture Regulation. Following this on December 21st 2011 the EU placed trade restrictions on all drugs exported to the United States that could be used in lethal injections, and affirmed that the EU “disapproves of capital punishment in all circumstances and works towards its universal abolition.”
The state-sanctioned murder of Dennis McGuire has been made all the more squalid by what his lawyer accurately described as “a failed experiment.” The death penalty itself is a failed and outdated experiment that represents nothing more than a human sacrifice designed to assuage the hurt feelings of victims. It does not deter crime and it has not led to lower murder rates. Most serious of all, far from affirming the sanctity of human life, it negates it by showing that the taking of life is acceptable, even legal, as long as it is sanctioned by the state.