An Ohio House member intends to introduce a bill to allow state prison officials to used seized fentanyl to execute prisoners residing on Death Row.
In a Monday evening email to his colleagues, Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, sought co-sponsors for his planned legislation, which would employ an opioid that has killed thousands of Ohioans through accidental overdoses.
“I believe that seized fentanyl (considered forefeited contraband through the court system) is the best solution” to the state’s inability to buy execution drugs from their manufacturers, Wiggam wrote.
Wiggam proposes that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to secure fentanyl seized in law enforcement operations for lethal injection of the condemned.
The state prisons agency would set rules for handling, testing and administering the deadly drug for use in executions, Wiggam wrote in his email.
Comment was being sought from Wiggam this afternoon.
Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said defense lawyers for those facing death would be handed arguments to make to judges if Ohio proposes to use seized fentanyl for executions.
“Where did the fentanyl come from? Has it been tested? … how do we know if it’s medical or black-market fentanyl?” Daniels asked.
“We think it is time for Ohio to end the death penalty,” he said. “It’s frustrating that Ohio continues to twist itself into knots finding ways to execute people when Ohio has done such a bad job of it in recent history.”
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced that drug manufacturers have threatened to cut off the state’s purchases of drugs needed for state prisoners, juvenile offenders, occupants of veterans’ homes and others if their drugs are used in executions against their wishes.
Unwilling to risk losing access to the pharmaceuticals for medicinal purposes, DeWine said he would talk with lawmakers about instituting another means of execution.
Asked if legislators will adopt another means of execution, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said, “I think we could and I think there are other states that are using some now … I suspect there will be a wide range of options.”
In an interview with The Dispatch, Obhof hinted that lawmakers seemingly could examine lethal gas as an alternate means of administering the death penalty.
The Senate president said it was “unlikely” the state would use electrocution, a firing squad or hanging. He declined comment when told lethal gas was the only remaining widely used option now in use among the states.
The 30 states with active death penalty laws all use lethal injection as the principle means of death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Twenty-six of those states also have alternative methods, with nine using electrocution, six using lethal gas and three each using hanging and firing squad.
Fifteen of those 26 states reserve the non-lethal-injection methods for use only when death by injection is unavailable or found unconstitutional.
DeWine remains unwilling to discuss endorsement of a potential alternate execution method, spokesman Dan Tierney said when asked about Wiggam’s planned bill.