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Ohio killer's execution takes almost 25 minutes

Ohio Executes Murderer With New Drug Cocktail

LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A condemned man appeared to gasp several times and took an unusually long time to die - more than 20 minutes - in an execution carried out Thursday with a combination of drugs never before tried in the U.S.

Dennis McGuire's attorney Allen Bohnert called the convicted killer's death "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added: "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names."

An attorney for McGuire's family said it plans to sue the state over what happened.

McGuire's lawyers had attempted last week to block his execution, arguing that the untried method could lead to a medical phenomenon known as "air hunger" and could cause him to suffer "agony and terror" while struggling to catch his breath.

McGuire, 53, made loud snorting noises during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Nearly 25 minutes passed between the time the lethal drugs began flowing and McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.

Executions under the old method were typically much shorter and did not cause the kind of sounds McGuire made.

Ohio prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith had no comment on how the execution went but said a review will be conducted as usual. The agency didn't release a timeline of McGuire's execution, breaking with the usual practice of providing it the same day, and said it was being reviewed and likely would be available Friday.

Prison officials gave intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put McGuire to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant newlywed, Joy Stewart.

The method was adopted after supplies of a previously used drug, the powerful sedative pentobarbital, dried up because the manufacturer declared it off limits for capital punishment.

The execution is certain to launch a new round of federal lawsuits over Ohio's injection procedure. The state has five more executions scheduled this year, with the next one Feb. 19.

States will try at all costs to find supplies of pentobarbital because courts likely will demand more proof of any new drugs' reliability, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.

"Judges will now realize that the warnings being raised about these untried procedures are not just false alarms," he said in an email.

McGuire's attorney called on Republican Gov. John Kasich to impose a moratorium on executions, as did a state death penalty opponent group.

What was particularly unusual Thursday was the five minutes or so that McGuire lay motionless on the gurney after the drugs began flowing, followed by a sudden snort and then more than 10 minutes of irregular breathing and gasping. Normally, movement comes at the beginning and is followed by inactivity.

"Oh, my God," his daughter, Amber McGuire, said as she watched his final moments.

Dayton defense lawyer Jon Paul Rion said the family is deeply disturbed by McGuire's execution, which it believes violated his constitutional rights.

"All citizens have a right to expect that they will not be treated or punished in a cruel and unusual way," Rion said.

In pressing for the execution to go ahead, state Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden had argued that while the U.S. Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment, "you're not entitled to a pain-free execution."

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost sided with the state. But at the request of McGuire's lawyers, he ordered officials to photograph and preserve the drug vials, packaging and syringes.

The selection of drugs for use in executions in the U.S. involves more than just considerations of effectiveness. It is complicated by the politics of the death penalty, questions of medical ethics and the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

In Ohio's case, the state in recent years used pentobarbital, a form of which is used to put down cats and dogs. But the state's supply ran out after the manufacturer refused to allow its use in executions.

Some executions with pentobarbital ran into problems, but they involved difficulties inserting the needle, not trouble with the effectiveness of the drug.

A few minutes before McGuire was put to death, Ohio prison director Gary Mohr said he believed the state's planning would produce "a humane, dignified execution" consistent with the law.

McGuire, strapped to the gurney as members of the execution medical team inserted intravenous needles into his arms, spoke several times. The prisons spokeswoman said he repeatedly thanked the leader of the execution team.

McGuire then thanked Stewart's family members, who witnessed the execution, for their "kind words" in a letter he apparently received from them.

"I'm going to heaven. I'll see you there when you come," he said.

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 death. His attempts to pin the crime on his brother-in-law quickly unraveled, and he was accused of the killing.

More than a decade later, DNA evidence confirmed McGuire's guilt, and he acknowledged his responsibility in a letter to Kasich last month.

The death row inmate's lawyers argued McGuire was mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child and had impaired brain function that made him prone to act impulsively.

"We have forgiven him, but that does not negate the need for him to pay for his actions," Stewart's family said in a statement after the execution.

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mfg.mojave January 21 2014 at 10:53 AM

Maybe Amber should have watched the horrific crime that her father committed and then ask herself if he indeed truly suffered!

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DAVE January 21 2014 at 3:45 AM

As difficult as this must have been for McGuire's family to watch, I wonder if anyone's constitutional rights were violated during the rape and murder of Joy Stewart. Also, I wonder how long it took for Joy Stewart to die and if her unborn child experienced a humane, dignified execution.
As the legal debates over a convicted murder's entitlement for a pain-free execution begin, what I fear the most is that Joy Stewart and her unborn child will be soon forgotten. Then when the lawsuits come to their dramatic conclusions, some lawyer and/or judge will get his name in the paper and someone will pocket most of loot that was "won" in the name of justice.
One final question: What ever happened to the need for medical ethics and the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment for God fearing, tax paying, law abiding citizens? I guess murder and rape is no longer considered cruel or unusual.
The answers to all my questions will not likely be discovered. Yet, it does give me peace of mind to know that it took 20 minutes for the citizens of Ohio and 1271 typed characters for me to share my thoughts and challenge a broken justice system.
Finally, it all boils down to this appropriate McGuire related conclusion...."The End"

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roseanne January 19 2014 at 7:21 PM

good he got what he deserved wish he had more pain

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Cheryl January 19 2014 at 12:06 PM

Then the Stewart's family should sue his family... for pain and suffering that they went through because of what he did..

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MY JASON January 18 2014 at 11:07 AM

What about the girl he killed and her baby,, I say he got what he deserved, to me it still worked to fast. Let him gasp a few more breaths, i am sure his victim suffered a lot more what is wrong with our society... He was evil

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sarahdoland January 18 2014 at 11:05 AM

Are you kidding me? Who cares? Did he have any pity for the women he raped and murdered. Does his family really think it was ok for those women to go as they did? Please, big deal. If he didn't want to die that way he probably shouldn't have went and raped woman and murdered them. So what it took him 25 min to die...boo hoo who knows how long those woman suffered! I say he got what was coming to him, sorry it wasn't a fast easy death!

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chuckcelt January 18 2014 at 10:41 AM

I seriously doubt he suffered. Having had both Versed and Dilaudid, he was knocked out to the point of severely decreased cerebration. His "last gasping breaths" were medullary in origin as a result of the decreased drive for respiration caused by the overdose. It was certainly less traumatic than the death he inflicted on two innocents.

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laurlee2 January 18 2014 at 10:30 AM

Seriously? He suffered? So did the young lady he brutally killed and her 8 month old, unborn child!!!

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robertthefishguy January 18 2014 at 10:11 AM

A few points...if you ran out of the drug normally used, go to a local vet and purchase more. Seems like it should be easy enough. Too much politics, and manufacturers wanting to cover their butts from lawyers. I say bring back the guillitoine (sp?). It would be free, quick, and then you could harvest the organs for people who want to live decent lives. I also say that being on death row for decades is ridiculous. If you are obviously guilty, then next week, you go. If there is question of guilt, then you are given 1 month for all of the evidence, then if found guilty...bye.

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Sundancer January 18 2014 at 9:18 AM

I'm not sure where I stand on the death penalty, but to be upset because this man may have suffered for a few minutes.......Sounds like everyone is saying that it doesn't matter how long, or how severely, his victim suffered. Another case of " forget the victim, take care of the poor criminal". We are truly a sick society. Although I don't like to think another human suffered unjustly, this man "earned" his suffering. A few minutes of struggle doesn't even begin to come close to making up for what he did to that poor pregnant woman. I don't understand the thinking of those opposed to his 25 minutes of suffering. Most people call for "an eye for an eye" when talking about the mistreatment of animals (which I agree with) but not for another human??? How does that work?

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