Clemency denied, Ohio to execute with suicide drug

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2011 8:15 PM
Clemency denied, Ohio to execute with suicide drug

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday rejected a request for mercy from a death row inmate, paving the way for the state to become the first to execute a prisoner solely with an anesthetic used for assisted suicides and medically induced comas.

The Republican governor denied the request by Johnnie Baston, 37, who's scheduled to die Thursday for killing Chong-Hoon Mah, a South Korean immigrant who operated retail stores in Toledo. The victim's family opposes the death penalty and the execution.

The Ohio Parole Board last month recommended against clemency, saying the execution-style killing and Baston's failure to accept responsibility outweigh the family's beliefs. The board also said Baston continues to suggest he may have been involved in the crime but didn't kill Mah, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The request for clemency was the final challenge remaining to Baston's execution, said Amy Borror, a spokeswoman for the Ohio public defender's office.

Baston asked for mercy based on the family's opposition to capital punishment and his chaotic upbringing, with his lawyer saying he was abandoned as an infant and would wander the streets with his dog trying to find his mother when he was a boy. He has never seen his mother and was rebuffed by his father when he attempted to move back in with him.

Baston is to be executed with pentobarbital, a barbiturate previously never used by itself in a U.S. execution. Oklahoma uses pentobarbital, but in combination with other drugs that paralyze inmates and stop their hearts.

Ohio is switching to the drug because the U.S. manufacturer of the drug it used previously, sodium thiopental, stopped making it, creating a shortage for the more than 30 states that used it.

The surgical sedative has been used in assisted suicides in Oregon and Washington and it is chemically related to the same product used to euthanize pets.

It is used to induce comas during surgeries to prevent brain damage when blood flow is interrupted, and to reduce possible brain damage following strokes or head trauma.