By Marc Kovac
Democratic state lawmakers say the prolonged execution of Preble County murderer Dennis McGuire should prompt Gov. John Kasich to issue a moratorium on future lethal injections.
State Reps. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood, D-13th, and Dan Ramos of Lorain, D-56th, sent the governor a letter Wednesday urging the action and offered testimony on legislation that would abolish the death penalty, replacing capital punishment with life terms in prison.
“The controversial, experimental drug combination administered had troublesome consequences and seemingly conflicted with U.S. constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment,” the two lawmakers wrote in their letter to Kasich, referencing McGuire’s execution last week. “It took the inmate over 20 minutes to die, during which he seemingly suffered from air hunger. This occurrence certainly raises serious constitutional questions, and it is our hope that other states, as well as Ohio, take great pause from the outcome of Thursday’s execution.”
McGuire was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and murder of a pregnant woman. Witnesses to his execution 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.
McGuire’s family plans to sue the state, saying the execution amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and several Democratic lawmakers have publicly asked the governor to halt executions.
Antonio and Ramos wrote in their letter to the governor, “We implore you to use your executive power to grant a full moratorium until we can ensure that humane and constitutional policies are in place.”
State prison officials and Kasich have not responded to questions about the execution. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said only that it is conducting its usual review of the execution process.
Kasich’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, offered in a released statement, “The governor supports the death penalty and the procedure is under review just as it is reviewed after every execution.”
The governor’s expected Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, told reporters Wednesday during a stop in Columbus that he is not opposed to capital punishment.
“They have to go through a very thorough and exhaustive review of how [McGuire’s execution] unfolded,” he said, adding later, “I think there are times when the death penalty is called for. I understand there’s ... legitimate moral concerns about it, and I respect people that have a different opinion on that.”