COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned killer in Ohio arrived at the death house a day ahead of his scheduled execution Wednesday with several requests for a delay pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A prisons spokeswoman said Ronald Phillips arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. That's about 24 hours before he is set to die in Ohio's first execution in more than three years.
The death penalty has been on hold in the state since January 2014, when a condemned inmate repeatedly gasped and snorted during a 26-minute procedure with a never-before-tried drug combo. Republican Gov. John Kasich placed halted upcoming executions after that and delays have continued because the state had trouble finding new supplies of drugs and death row inmates challenged Ohio's plans for a new three-drug execution method.
Phillips, 43, was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.
He has asked the high court for more time to appeal Ohio's lethal injection method. Fifteen pharmacology professors argued Monday a sedative used in the process is incapable of inducing unconsciousness or preventing serious pain.
A federal court last month upheld the use of the sedative, midazolam, which has been problematic in several executions, including Ohio's in 2014 and others in Arkansas and Arizona. The ruling cleared the way for the state to move forward with three executions, though it wasn't entirely decisive ruling on the constitutionality question.
Phillips has also requested a delay based on being 19 at the time of the killing, older than the Supreme Court threshold for juvenile. The latest stay request on that issue was filed Tuesday.
In a brief filed late Tuesday, his attorneys said Phillips' circumstances at the time of murder led him to be treated like a much younger person. They said his case "calls out" for further review by the high court.
"At the time of his arrest, Phillips was a teenager with such obvious psychosocial deficits that when he was picked up by police at school, he was taken not to the adult facility of the police department, but to its Juvenile Bureau instead," they wrote. "The State does not even attempt to refute Phillips' deficits, including his severe emotional immaturity and subaverage intelligence, which were apparent to both experts and lay persons alike at the time of the offense and trial."
Attorneys for the state argued against Phillips' request, saying he made meritless, often conflicting, legal claims.
"Phillips argues that youth, like IQ, cannot be reduced to a number. But he also argues that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of adults under age twenty-one," they wrote in a court document filed Tuesday. "He cannot have it both ways; if age cannot make one eligible for death, it cannot make one ineligible for death."
The state of Ohio also has told U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who handles such appeals for Ohio, that continued delays in Phillips' case are harming the state by costing time and resources.
The state also has told Justice Elena Kagan, who handles such appeals for Ohio, that continued delays in Phillips' case are costing the state resources.
Phillips has had several previous delays to scheduled executions, most notably in 2013 when he made a last-minute plea to donate his organs. He said that he wanted to give a kidney to his mother, who was on dialysis, and possibly his heart to his sister. His request was denied. His mother has since died.
As he awaited action from the high court, Phillips was being permitted to see family, friends and spiritual advisers and to meet with his attorneys. For his last meal, to be served Tuesday evening, he requested a large cheese pizza with bell pepper and mushrooms, a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and strawberry cheesecake, along with grape juice and a piece of unleavened bread.