Ohio to use last of lethal drug supply for execution Wednesday

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 24, 2013 5:30 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio is scheduled to use its last dose of a lethal drug to execute convicted murderer Harry Mitts Jr. on Wednesday, the latest state forced to find alternative methods after the foreign pharmaceutical supplier cut off supplies due to objections to use of the drug for capital punishment.

Ohio's supply of pentobarbital will expire at the end of September and will no longer be legal for executions, said Corrections Department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

Mitts, 66, who has been on death row for more than 18 years for the murder of two men, would be the last Ohio inmate to be executed under the state's existing drug protocol.

The Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck LLC, which manufactures pentobarbital, is refusing to supply more of the drug for executions in the United States because of European Union opposition to the death penalty.

The state has pledged to have a new execution drug protocol in place in October before its next scheduled execution, of Ronald Phillips, on November 14.

Other U.S. states have also altered the drugs used in executions, juggled the combinations of drugs and sought to buy new supplies overseas or from different drug companies.

Before 2011, several states used the anesthetic sodium thiopental as part of their lethal injections. But Hospira Inc halted production of the drug that year, forcing states to look elsewhere for drugs that could be used for lethal injections. Many turned to pentobarbital, which now also is in short supply.

Texas, which executes more people than any other state, said in August that its supply of pentobarbital also would expire at the end of September, allowing it to conduct only one more execution with the drug, on September 26. But criminal justice department spokesman Jason Clark, said on Tuesday the state's supply of the drug was not expiring this month after all. He did not explain what had changed since August.

Mitts was sentenced on November 21, 1994, for the murder of John A. Bryant and an Ohio policeman, Dennis Glivar. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of two other Ohio policemen.

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Prosecutors in his case said Mitts, who is white, is a racist who allowed two white people to flee unharmed before shooting Bryant, a black man, and that he used racial epithets throughout the police standoff.

Ohio's Republican Governor John Kasich, who has commuted the sentences of four men on death row to life in prison without parole since 2011, did not commute Mitts's sentence.

Mitts would be the 26th person executed in the United States so far this year and the third in Ohio. There are 146 men and one woman on the state's death row.

Prison guards have been keeping Mitts under watch around the clock in recent days after an Ohio death row inmate committed suicide in August, three days before his scheduled execution.

(Reporting By Kim Palmer; Editing by Greg McCune, Ken Wills and David Gregorio)