COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge has extended a months-long moratorium on executions in Ohio into next year as questions mount about the effectiveness of a new, two-drug combination being used to carry out the death penalty.
The ruling by federal judge Gregory Frost will delay executions scheduled for September, October and November and highlights the ongoing problem faced by states in obtaining drugs to put inmates to death.
The last moratorium was scheduled to expire this week.
The one-page order that Frost issued Friday extends it through Jan. 15. It affects the state’s latest death penalty policy change, which was announced in late April and increases the amount of the sedative and painkiller Ohio uses.
Ohio’s first choice for a drug is compounded pentobarbital, a specialty version of the drug it used previously with few problems. But it has been unable to obtain supplies of that drug and so switched to its backup method of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.
On Jan. 16, an Ohio inmate repeatedly gasped during the record 26 minutes it took him to die.
On April 29 in Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after his execution began with a three-drug method that starts with midazolam. Officials pointed to improper insertion of the needle delivering the drugs.
On July 23, an inmate took nearly two hours to die in Arizona, which also uses midazolam and hydromorphone.
Missouri and Texas both have supplies of compounded pentobarbital, though the states won’t reveal their sources, and have used them to carry out several executions successfully in recent months.