By Marc Kovac
Kenneth Biros will be put to death next week using the single-drug method.
COLUMBUS — State prison officials implemented a new execution protocol Monday and plan to use it next week on Trumbull County murderer Kenneth Biros.
Barring court intervention, Biros will become the first Ohio inmate to be put to death using the single-drug method, with a direct injection backup if suitable veins are not available for the standard intravenous procedure.
The execution protocol was outlined in an 11-page policy released to reporters Monday during an open house in the death chamber and related facilities at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
“We wanted to equip our staff with the means necessary to carry out their responsibilities under the law,” said Julie Walburn, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
The policy, announced earlier in the month by state prison Director Terry Collins, supersedes the three-drug protocol that has been used since Ohio restarted executions in 1999.
Walburn said the changes addressed two issues: claims that the former three-drug method could be cruel and unusual punishment and the inclusion of a backup system if inmates’ veins are not accessible for intravenous injections.
A federal court last week cleared Biros’ execution, scheduled for Dec. 8. He faces the death penalty for the 1991 murder of Tami Engstrom, a 22-year-old woman who he offered to drive home from a Masury bar. The victim was murdered and dismembered, with parts of her body scattered in two Pennsylvania counties.
Under the new protocol, execution team members will attempt to connect shunts to an inmate’s veins, starting with the “joint between the upper and lower arm” as the preferred injection site, Walburn said. They’re “allowed as much time as is necessary to establish one or two viable sites.”
In cases where veins are accessible, the inmate will be injected with high doses of a common anesthetic drug until dead. In cases where veins aren’t accessible, the inmate will receive a single injection of a sedative and a painkiller into a major muscle, like the thigh, the deltoid or triceps.
In the latter case, injections will be given every five minutes until the inmate stops breathing and is pronounced dead.
“I’m sure that there will be litigation surrounding any execution procedures that we set forth,” Walburn said. “Our experts that we talked to believe that this is no more painful than the other injection of establishing an IV site. Intramuscular injection is similar to ... a flu shot injection.”
She added, “Certainly, they have the right to litigate, and I’m sure they’ll choose to do so. But we think this is an appropriate execution protocol.”