Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On to Plan B

The story, apparently not true, is that Justice built Ohio's electric chair.
The fact is that Justice was killed in it.
That's Charles Justice, and the debunking of the claim that he built the chair is courtesy of the of the Ohio Historical Society.  We used Ol' Sparky throughout the 20th Century.  No longer.
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In the spirit of killing people nicely, the General Assembly eliminated the chair as a killing option. We now execute by lethal injection which, by statute, is required to inflict death "quickly and painlessly."  It's spelled out in Revised Code Section 2949.22(A). 
[A] death sentence shall be executed by causing the application to the person, upon whom the sentence was imposed, of a lethal injection of a drug or combination of drugs of sufficient dosage to quickly and painlessly cause death.
It is perhaps worth noting that no state other than Ohio actually requires executions to be painless.  That's because we're nicer than any other state.  At least, we are as long as it's constitutional to cause death quickly and painlessly.   If not . . . well, our General Assembly is nothing if not careful. When they enacted the current version of the how-to-kill-'em law, the members of the legislature knew that they couldn't trust the courts to let them kill gently.  So they gave themselves an out.  Subsection C.
If a person is sentenced to death, and if the execution of a death sentence by lethal injection has been determined to be unconstitutional, the death sentence shall be executed by using any different manner of execution prescribed by law subsequent to the effective date of this amendment instead of by causing the application to the person of a lethal injection of a drug or combination of drugs of sufficient dosage to quickly and painlessly cause death, provided that the subsequently prescribed different manner of execution has not been determined to be unconstitutional.
Got that?  If quick and painless lethal injection is unconstitutional, they can kill by any other method they cook up (boiling in oil, perhaps?) as long as it hasn't been declared unconstitutional.  Which, in my roundabout way, brings me to the impending murder of Ronald Phillips.

You'll recall, perhaps, that they're planning to kill him in two weeks, on November 14. But there's a complication.  Our supply of pentobarbital, our execution drug of choice, expired a month ago.  We used up the last of the good stuff on Harry Mitts.  What we had left expired then.  And because Lundebeck, the Danish company that manufactures the drug doesn't want to be in the killing business, we can't buy any more.  (Nobody else can, either, which is fucking up killing from one end of the country to another.)

What to do?

On October 4, the state unveiled its latest plan.

Use pentobarbital from anywhere we can get it.*  And if somehow we can't get enough of it (you're joking, right? surely we can find some crackpot in a basement who'll whip some up), well, then there's plan B.  Which is to kill 'em with a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone which they'll get from anywhere they can. Nobody's ever done executions that way, but hey, we're the really nice state, so we'll go first.  

Except nobody really believed that, because there was that unemployed kid in his basement with a hot plate and a few chemicals who's ready to whip up pentobarbital on a moment's notice.

But . . . but . . . but . . . (I sputter), the kid failed.

Paul Kennedy wrote about the problem in Missouri.
However, since the manufacturer of pentobarbital has already said they will not sell their wares to anyone for use in the state-sponsored murder of inmates. Missouri will likely look to local pharmacists to see who is more interested in turning a profit than in helping the sick and the ill. My guess is they won't have to look long for takers.
Of course the problem with acquiring the drugs from a compounding pharmacy is the fact that there is no quality control checks on the drugs. The drugs aren't subject to testing by the FDA to ensure that they do what they purport to do. There are no studies to determine whether or not the inmate undergoes any pain or discomfort during the procedure. So long as the second drug in the cocktail (the paralytic agent) works, there is no way of knowing whether the inmate senses any of what is happening since he would be unable to alert anyone.
So maybe Missouri won't find a willing kid in the basement, either.  Because we sure can't here in Ohio.

On Monday, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (motto: We rehabilitate them and then correct them into the grave) announced that they can't turn up any pentobarbital.  So it's on to plan B.

Which, as I say, is a way to kill that nobody's ever tried.

Judge Frost is holding a hearing on Friday.

Your guess is as good as mine.

*As a practical matter, that meant we'd get it from a compounding pharmacy.


1 comment:

  1. I wondered when you'd get around to this one. I wrote about it here (Another Execution...), which you can read or not as it amuses you.

    I continue to advocate the firing squad as the only reliable, humane method for execution. It's also cost effective and requires no specialized training - depending on geographic location, I suppose.

    This whole business about concocting a new drug combination is ludicrous. This is the State government we're talking about here. Is there anyone naive and gullible enough to actually believe they'll get it right?