- Dennis McGuire’s family say the drug cocktail used to kill him caused him to suffer as he died
- It took McGuire 26 minutes to die – the longest execution since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999
- They are now suing the drug’s manufacturer to get the combination banned in executions
- McGuire was convicted of the 1989 rape and murder of a 22-year-old western Ohio woman
and Ashley Collman
21:31 GMT, 26 January 2014
23:56 GMT, 26 January 2014
The family of an Ohio death row inmate executed with a never-before-used drug cocktail are suing the medical manufacturer, saying his death was cruel and unusual punishment.
Dennis McGuire was put to death on January 16 using a two-drug combination after the state’s previous execution drug dried up. He was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Joy Stewart in Preble County, Ohio.
It took 26 minutes for McGuire to die, breaking the record for longest execution since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999. During the nearly half-hour it took McGuire to die, he was observed ‘snorting, gurgling and arching his back’.
‘It looked and sounded as though he was suffocating,’ the lawsuit filed in federal court Friday reads.
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Execution: Death row inmate Dennis McGuire, pictured, became the first prisoner executed in the U.S. by the two-drug combination. His family are now suing, saying he was ‘tortured’ during the execution
Experimental: McGuire was executed at this facility by Ohio’s untested execution method
Punishment: The death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Ohio used intravenous doses of two drugs, midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, to put McGuire to death
A DEADLY COCKTAIL: OHIO INTRODUCES LETHAL SEDATIVE AND PAINKILLER MIX FOR EXECUTIONS AFTER PREVIOUS DRUG RUNS OUT
Ohio has begun using lethal doses of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydropmorphone after the European manufacturer of the previous drug, pentobarbital, stopped allowing its use in lethal injections.
Marketed in English-speaking countries and Mexico under the trade names Dormicum, Hypnovel, and Versed, midazolam is a short-acting sedative in the benzodiazepine class of drugs developed by Hoffmann-La Roche in the 1970s.
The drug is used for treatment of acute seizures, moderate to severe insomnia, and for inducing sedation and amnesia before medical procedures. It possesses profoundly potent anxiolytic, amnestic, hypnotic, anticonvulsant, skeletal muscle relaxant, and sedative properties.
Hydromorphone is a very potent centrally acting analgesic drug of the opioid class. It is a derivative of morphine.
An expert in Dennis McGuire’s case claimed the two drugs together in lethal doses would very likely cause what’s known as ‘air hunger’ or simply an acute shortness of breath.
The clinical definition of air hunger or dyspnea is an uncomfortable awareness of one’s breathing effort. It is a normal symptom of heavy exertion but becomes pathological if it occurs in unexpected situations.
Reports from McGuire’s death chamber suggest this may have in fact occurred.
As such, the appropriateness of the drugs, and the extent to which they may be cruel, will likely be reviewed by Ohio officials before they are used in another execution.
The family is aiming their lawsuit at Hospira, Inc. – the Lake Forest, Illinois company that makes the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone.
On their own, the drugs are actually meant to calm patients during surgery and reduce pain.
But together, the McGuire family’s lawyers say they cause ‘air hunger’ which is the acute shortness of breath.
The family claims that the company knew what the drugs were being used for but continued to provide them to the state, knowing they ‘would cause unnecessary and extreme pain and suffering during the execution process’.
Another separate lawsuit was filed on Thursday in an attempt to stop the scheduled March execution of another Ohio killer who would be administered the same drugs.
Gregory Lott is scheduled to be executed on March 19 for setting an East Cleveland man on fire and leaving him to die.
Lott’s attorneys say the state is using the drugs illegally since they don’t have a prescription to use them.
Hospira provided Ohio with its previous execution drug – sodium thiopental – but stopped producing it after it couldn’t guarantee to Italian authorities where their factory was located or that the drug wouldn’t be used for capital punishment.
According to a company statement, Hospira has prohibited their drugs from being used in executions in the past and will do the same for the midazolam/hydromorphone combination.
It’s still unclear what McGuire felt as he slipped away.
An anesthesiologist hired by McGuire’s attorney say the drugs cause ‘air hunger’ which causes the recipient to duffer ‘agony and terror’ as they slowly suffocate.
But another anesthesiologist countered that opinion, saying that while the inmate might snore, the drugs cause no suffering.
The drugs weren’t designed to cause death, Jon Paul Rion, the McGuire family attorney, told the AP Friday.
‘There’s a clear distinction between a therapeutic use of a drug in a medical environment as opposed to using that drug in an execution style,’ he said.
‘That’s the concern, that we’re taking drugs that have therapeutic value and we’re not using them for the purposes for which the FDA approved nor for which the clinical tests were performed,’ he added.
Victim: McGuire, 53, was sentenced to die for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of Joy Stewart in Preble County in western Ohio. The 22-year-old Stewart was newly married and pregnant
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute request to delay McGuire’s execution on the grounds that a jury never got to hear the full extent of his chaotic and abusive childhood. The court’s denial included no explanation.
McGuire was sentenced to die for raping and killing Joy Stewart, 22, in 1989.
Stewart’s slaying went unsolved for 10 months until McGuire, jailed on an unrelated assault and hoping to improve his legal situation, told investigators he had information about the woman’s February 12, 1989, death.
His attempts to blame the crime on his brother-in-law quickly unraveled and soon he was accused of being Stewart’s killer, according to prosecutors.
More than a decade later, DNA evidence confirmed McGuire’s guilt, and he acknowledged that he was responsible in a letter to Governor John Kasich last month.
‘One can scarcely conceive of a sequence of crimes more shocking to the conscience or to moral sensibilities than the senseless kidnapping and rape of a young, pregnant woman followed by her murder,’ Preble County prosecutors said in a filing with the state parole board last month.
His attorneys argued McGuire was mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child and had impaired brain function that made him prone to act impulsively.
‘Dennis was at risk from the moment he was born,’ the lawyers said in a parole board filing. ‘The lack of proper nutrition, chaotic home environment, abuse, lack of positive supervision and lack of positive role models all affected Dennis’ brain development.’
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show McGuire unsuccessfully sought a reprieve in recent weeks to try to become an organ donor. In November, Kasich granted a death row inmate an eight-month reprieve to let the prison system study his request to donate a kidney to his sister and his heart to his mother.
Kasich said McGuire couldn’t identify a family member who would receive his organs, as required under prison policy.
New drugs: Ohio officials used intravenous doses of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone to put McGuire, pictured at an undated court hearing, to death
Crime scene: The pregnant 22-year-old was found dead in a dark wood, pictured, in 1989
In the letter Joy’s sister wrote, she described her 10-years-younger, adopted sister as the light of her family’s life.
was born Christmas Day, 1966 but I haven’t spoken to her in more than
24 years. Her voice was silenced on February 11, 1989 when Dennis
McGuire brutally ended her life.’
Avery said the soon-to-be mom was excited about the birth of her baby boy, who tragically died too the day of the murder.
never got to realize her dreams, never got to hold her baby boy in her
arms, never got to kiss his soft cheek, never got to see him smile,’ she
Avery described how the grief following Joy’s murder destroyed her parents.
‘They never fully recovered and both died knowing that her killer still lived,’ she said.
the contentious lethal injection McGuire was given, Avery wrote: ‘There
has been a lot of controversy regarding the drugs that are to be used
in his execution, concern that he might feel terror, that he might
‘As I recall the
events preceding her death; forcing her from the car, attempting to rape
her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, leaving her
to bleed out: I know she suffered terror and pain.
‘He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her.’