Ronald Philips, a convicted child rapist and killer, testified via video in a federal court Friday asking that his scheduled November 14 execution be postponed because Ohio plans to use an untested combination of drugs for his lethal injection.
Ohio used its last dose of the more widely used lethal injection drug pentobarbital to execute convicted murderer Harry Mitts, Jr. this past September. Pentobarbital is commonly used to relieve stress before surgery, but when combined with other drugs or given in high doses, it can become deadly. For the past two years the sedative has been the lethal injection drug of choice in American executions. The drug, which is mostly made overseas, has been running out in states across the country.
"The states really scramble to go all over to get drugs. Some went overseas, some got from each other. But these manufacturers, a number them are based in Europe, don't want to participate in our executions. So they've clamped down as much as they can," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.
After running out of pentobarbital in September, the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction announced a new policy that would impose a two-drug lethal injection process for its executions. The process involves the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.
Phillips, who would be the first to be executed under the new process, challenged it in federal court. His lawyers say that the new lethal cocktail may be cruel and unusual punishment, which would violate Philips constitutional rights under the eighth amendment.
In his video testimony, Phillips said that God is protecting him from execution because doctors who came to do a preliminary checkup were unable to find his veins.
"I guess the Lord hid my veins from them," Phillips said.
The new execution drugs cause severe side effects including pain and vomiting, which are not usually present in executions using pentobarbital. Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a University of Massachusetts anesthesiologist says that the drug cocktail will cause Phillips to stop breathing, then irreversible brain and heart damage will follow.
No word yet on whether the state will postpone Phillips’ execution. The state did say that the use of the drugs has been repeatedly challenged to no avail.