COLUMBUS — The December execution of a former Toledo man for the brutal murder of his cellmate 22 years ago is “highly unlikely” to go forward as scheduled, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.
But whether Ohio should consider abolishing the death penalty altogether is a matter for state lawmakers, he said.
“We’re very concerned about the state losing the ability to buy certain drugs that are used for our citizens, and we have threats from a number of drug companies that if their drugs are used in executions, they would conceivably cut that source off,” he said.
James Galen Hanna, 70, is scheduled to die on Ohio’s lethal injection gurney at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution in Lucasville on Dec. 11. He stabbed cellmate Peter Copas, 43, in the eye with a knife fashioned from a paintbrush and then bludgeoned him with a sock containing a padlock at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in 1997.
Copas died nearly three weeks later, and Hanna is now on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
At the time, Hanna was serving a life sentence at the prison in Warren County for the 1978 robbery murder of Edward V. Tucker, 18, who was working his first solo night shift at a West Toledo convenience store.
He also convicted of attempted murder for repeatedly stabbing the store’s district manager, Harvey W. Blitz, then 26, numerous times when he walked into the store and surprised Hanna during the robbery. Mr. Blitz survived.
It’s been more than a year since Ohio’s last execution. No inmate has gone to his death on the watch of Mr. DeWine, a Republican former attorney general whose office worked, often successfully, to carry out Ohio’s death penalty.
He has not issued a general moratorium on the death penalty, but he has issued a series of delays. He has yet to act on Hanna, the only execution still scheduled for this year.
Like other states with the death penalty, Ohio has struggled to legally obtain execution drugs because their manufacturers object to their use in putting people to death. An attempt to get a compounding pharmacy to manufacture the drugs from scratch and supply them anonymously to the state has not worked.
“We are in a very difficult situation,” Mr. DeWine said. “Current law in Ohio only allows lethal injection as a way to carry out the death penalty…”
When asked if it was time that Ohio abolishes the death penalty, he said, “These are discussions that the legislature is going to have to have.”
The state has often changed the cocktail of drugs used to put inmates to death as it tried to stay ahead of manufacturers attempts to block access for that purpose. The current protocol involves the sedative midazolam to render the inmate unconscious, the paralytic rocuronium bromide to shut down breathing, and then potassium chloride to trigger cardiac arrest.