By Marc Kovac
The family of a Preble County murderer who gasped for air while being executed plans to file a federal lawsuit against the state, alleging he was subject to cruel and unusual punishment during his lethal injection.
A Dayton law firm will handle the case on behalf of Dennis McGuire’s family. Ohioans to Stop Execution announced the suit Friday, the day after McGuire became the first inmate put to death using a new two-drug combination.
“Shortly after the warden buttoned his jacket to signal the start of the execution, my dad began gasping and struggling to breathe,” Amber McGuire, the inmate’s daughter, said in a released statement. “I watched his stomach heave. I watched him try to sit up against the straps on the gurney. I watched him repeatedly clench his fist. It appeared to me he was fighting for his life but suffocating.”
McGuire was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and murder of a pregnant woman.
Witnesses to his execution Thursday described him struggling to breathe for about 10 minutes during a process that took longer than other lethal injections administered since the state restarted capital punishment in 1999.
A log of Dennis McGuire’s final moments noted that “10 mg of midazolam and 40 mg of hydromorphone were prepared and drawn into a single syringe” for use in his execution.
The actual injection was administered in about 20 seconds, but it took more than 20 minutes for McGuire to be pronounced dead.
State prison officials have offered little comment, other than noting that they are undertaking their standard review of the process.
Ohioans to Stop Execution and at least one state lawmaker are urging Gov. John Kasich to issue “an immediate moratorium” on executions, in light of McGuire’s death.
“This flawed execution reinforces my belief that the death penalty is an outdated method of punishment that has no place in civilized society,” Sen. Edna Brown, D-Toledo, said in a released statement. “... I believe the evidence overwhelmingly shows that the death penalty is not necessary or appropriate to carry out justice in Ohio. Our state must move towards life-without-parole sentencing as the appropriate punishment for the most-heinous crimes.”