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Ohio’s lethal injection a human experiment, attorney contends



Published: Sat, November 21, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

COLUMBUS (AP) — The state’s new lethal-injection plan is so untested that it would amount to human experimentation if used for the first time next month, an attorney for a condemned inmate said in a Friday court filing.

There is no reason for federal courts to allow the scheduled Dec. 8 execution of Kenneth Biros given the lack of details in the proposed system, which replaces a fatal three-drug cocktail with a single powerful dose of anesthetic, attorney Tim Sweeney said.

Ohio also has proposed a two-drug muscle injection as a backup, but Sweeney said in a filing with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that there’s no evidence of the backup’s reliability.

“There is nothing in the record on which this Court can make any legitimate determination as to whether the ‘back-up’ they have selected is as or more constitutionally problematic than a gunshot to the head,” Sweeney wrote.

The proposal “is human experimentation, pure and simple,” Sweeney said.

Biros killed 22-year-old Tami Engstrom in Brookfield in 1991. He had offered to drive her home from a bar, then dismembered her corpse and scattered her body parts in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He acknowledged killing her but said it was done during a drunken rage.

Trumbull County prosecutor Dennis Watkins called Biros, 51, “a poster person for the death penalty.”

Sweeney responded to a Friday afternoon deadline set by the 6th Circuit, which wants to know why a lawsuit challenging injection shouldn’t be dismissed.

Biros has argued that Ohio’s three-drug injection process could cause severe pain, in violation of the Constitution.

After the state last week replaced that system with a single dose of anesthetic, it said the new approach renders Biros’ lawsuit moot.

Attorney General Richard Cordray said nothing is stopping Biros from challenging the one-drug proposal. But Cordray also pointed out that Biros and other inmates have often said that adopting the single-drug method could eliminate the risk of pain.

A federal judge has temporarily delayed Biros’ execution but left open the possibility the execution could still happen if the state revised its injection rules.


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