Lethal injection drug bill clears Ohio Legislature

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Posted: Dec 17, 2014 5:21 PM
Lethal injection drug bill clears Ohio Legislature

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The names of companies that provide Ohio with lethal injection drugs would be shielded under a proposal sent Wednesday to the governor.

Some lawmakers have said the bill is needed to restart executions in the state. But prosecutors who want a condemned child killer executed in February say the legislation will undoubtedly lead to court challenges, and they're confident the procedure won't happen as scheduled.

The bill was among several that the House cleared Wednesday as lawmakers finished work for the two-year legislative session. The Senate passed the measure last week. Republican Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign it.

Shielding the names of companies that provide lethal injection drugs is necessary to obtain supplies of the drugs by protecting drugmakers from harassment, according to bill supporters.

Problems finding supplies of lethal drugs have created a de facto moratorium on executions in Ohio, which a decade ago was one of the country's busiest death penalty states.

Ohio executed just one inmate this year: Dennis McGuire, who snorted and gasped during much of the 26-minute procedure using a two-drug combo never tried before. Concerns about that execution led to delays of other executions.

Opponents of the lethal injection bill say concerns about harassment are overblown and it's naive to think the bill can truly protect companies' names from being revealed.

The anonymity for companies — which would last 20 years — was requested by lawmakers after prosecutors said executions wouldn't happen in Ohio without such protection. It's aimed at compounding pharmacies that mix doses of specialty drugs.

Ohio's first choice of an execution drug is compounded pentobarbital — used frequently in Texas and Missouri — but the state has been unable to obtain it. Its second choice — simultaneous doses of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller — led to McGuire's prolonged execution and a nearly two-hour-long execution in Arizona in July.

In addition, the bill creates a committee to study "the manner and means" of how executions are carried out. At issue is whether other methods already ruled constitutional — such as the electric chair — should be considered. The state abolished electrocution as an option more than a decade ago.

The bill also shields the names of participants in Ohio executions.