COLUMBUS — Ohio is following a mandatory checklist for putting inmates to death as it prepares for the state’s first execution in more than three years, a prisons agency official said.
The state wouldn’t release documents related to those checkups to The Associated Press, saying open records law shields such information.
“We can confirm, however, that to date all steps of Ohio’s execution protocol have been complied with in preparation of the execution scheduled later this month,” JoEllen Smith, prisons department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, is scheduled to die July 26. It’s his third execution date of the year following earlier reprieves to allow legal arguments over the drugs Ohio plans to use.
In a significant ruling, a federal appeals court last month opened the door to Phillips’ execution and others by permitting Ohio’s use of a contested sedative.
That drug, midazolam, was used previously in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona and Arkansas in which inmates didn’t appear fully sedated before other drugs kicked in.
Attorneys for death row inmates fell short in attempts to prove that “Ohio’s protocol is ‘sure or very likely’ to cause serious pain,” the appeals court said in an 8-6 ruling.
An appeal of that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected.
Phillips, 43, also has separate federal appeals pending that argue his age at the time — he was 19 — should be a consideration for mercy. The nation’s high court already has banned the execution of people under 18.
“We’re going to continue to fight as vigorously as we can to see that this execution does not go forward,” said Tim Sweeney, an attorney representing Phillips.
Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014 when death row inmate Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution in the state to date. The state used midazolam and a painkiller on McGuire in a method that’s since been abandoned.
What Ohio’s protocols require:
30 days before the execution:
— The warden of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, where executions are carried out, determines whether the state has sufficient execution drugs and reports his findings to the prisons agency director. The state has said in court filings it has enough drugs to carry out at least four executions.
—The execution team begins weekly training sessions.
21 days beforehand:
— Prison medical staff evaluates an inmate’s veins and plans for the insertion of the IV lines.
— A member of the prison system’s mental health staff evaluates the inmate’s stability and mental health in light of the scheduled execution.
14 days beforehand:
The warden of Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where death row is housed, verifies the inmate’s pre-execution visitors, his spiritual adviser, execution witnesses and funeral arrangements.