The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

January 17, 2014

Ohio executions face criticism after unusual death

LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Ohio's capital punishment system is likely to face new challenges following an unusually long execution in which the condemned man appeared to gasp several times.

Family members of death row inmate Dennis McGuire planned a Friday news conference to announce a lawsuit over McGuire's death, which they are calling unconstitutional. And it's almost certain lawyers will use McGuire's Thursday execution to challenge Ohio's plans to put a condemned Cleveland-area killer to death next month.

"All citizens have a right to expect that they will not be treated or punished in a cruel and unusual way," defense attorney Jon Paul Rion, representing McGuire's adult children, said Thursday. "Today's actions violated that constitutional expectation."

McGuire's attorney Allen Bohnert called the convicted killer's death "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added: "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names."

McGuire's lawyers had attempted last week to block his execution, arguing that the untried method could lead to a medical phenomenon known as "air hunger" and could cause him to suffer "agony and terror" while struggling to catch his breath.

A few minutes before McGuire was put to death, Ohio prison director Gary Mohr said he believed the state's planning would produce "a humane, dignified execution" consistent with the law.

McGuire, 53, made loud snorting noises during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Nearly 25 minutes passed between the time the lethal drugs began flowing and McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.

Executions under the old method were typically much shorter and did not cause the kind of sounds McGuire made.

Ohio prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith had no comment on how the execution went but said a review will be conducted as usual.

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