Ohio judge denies death row inmates’ request for more witnesses at executions
On Tuesday, US District Court Magistrate Michael Merz denied the request from attorneys representing the three death row inmates. The lawyers asked the court to allow extra witnesses at forthcoming executions, specifically two “appropriately trained persons,” such as a lawyer and a nurse anesthetist, to make sure that the execution is carried out in a manner that adheres to the Constitution, according to the Associated Press.
Judge Merz said that there is no evidence to prove that a nurse anesthetist would be able to evaluate the consciousness of an inmate from the viewing room. The drug in question, midazolam, has proved problematic in Arizona, Arkansas and Ohio.
The judge also said the person observing the execution would be seen as biased, because they would be part of the inmate’s legal team, the AP reported.
Ohio has not executed an inmate in three years.
Ohio is set to resume state executions on July 26. Ronald Phillips is one of the death row inmates and has been sentenced to die on that day for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s three year-old daughter in Akron. The executions were put on hold for three years while new more ‘humane’ lethal drugs were being sought for the procedures.
On Tuesday morning, attorneys representing the death row inmates reportedly requested that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who handles appeals in Ohio, delay the executions that have been given a green light due to a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in June that allowed Ohio to resume executions, according to the AP.
The Sixth Circuit’s ruling goes against previous rulings in higher courts, and therefore the attorneys believe the Supreme Court will take on their appeal. The attorneys state that this appeal “involves an issue of recurring and national importance,”according to AP.
Merz previously criticized midazolam. In January, he blocked three executions and ruled that Ohio could not continue with the execution process because midazolam was being inhumane, NPR reported.
Midazolam is not the only drug being administered for injection. The other two drugs set to be used are, rocuronium bromide, which induces paralysis and potassium chloride, which will stop the heart from beating.
The two other death row inmates are Gary Otte, scheduled to be executed on September 13 for a 1992 double killing in Parma, a suburb in Cleveland, and Raymond Tibbetts, scheduled for October 18. Tibbets stabbed a man to death in 1997 in Cincinnati.
The last time Ohio delivered the lethal injection to someone there were allegedly major issues.
In 2014, inmate Dennis Mcguire appeared to suffer by gasping for air for 15 minutes after being administered a lethal cocktail of drugs that had previously not been used, according to NBC News.