By Marc Kovac
State prison officials could turn to so-called compounding pharmacies to mix the primary drug used in executions under an updated lethal injection protocol filed in federal court.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction also added a third means of putting inmates to death, a two-drug intravenous substitute for times when pentobarbital is unavailable.
The changes, included in DRC’s library of written guidelines, were sent Friday to a federal judge who is considering legal challenges to the state’s lethal-injection practices.
Barring court intervention, the process will be in place for the execution of Ronald Phillips next month. He was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl in Akron.
Under its former guidelines, DRC outlined two means of lethal injection. The primary method was an intravenous injection of pentobarbital, a barbiturate. In cases where suitable veins could not be found, a backup method called for two drugs (midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, an opiate) to be injected directly into the inmate’s muscle.
Under the new protocol announced Friday, pentobarbital remains the primary means of execution, though language allows the state to purchase it from a “manufacturer, distributor or compounding pharmacy.”
The manufacturer has refused to sell supplies to be used for executions, and the state’s existing inventory has expired.
Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the state has not yet identified a compounding pharmacy to make future purchases. The facilities can mix the components of pentobarbital for use in lethal injections.
The new protocol also calls for midazolam and hydromorphone to be administered intravenously if pentobarbital is not available. And if suitable veins cannot be found, the drugs would be injected directly.
The change is the fourth in recent years to the lethal-injection process.