It took longer for Ohio inmate to die than it takes to read this post

This undated handout photo courtesy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows Dennis McGuire, who was executed Thursday.
(Handout )

So, the state of Ohio conducted a little experiment Thursday: Can you execute someone using just two drugs?

And the result? Why, yes you can. But it wasn’t quick, and it may not have been painless.

First, a little background.

The executed man, Dennis McGuire, was convicted in 1994 of raping and murdering Joy Stewart, 22, who was eight months’ pregnant. And he eventually confessed to the crime. So there’s no doubting his guilt.


And Ohio, like several states, previously used a three-drug execution method. But supplies of some of the drugs have dried up because their European-based manufacturers have banned their use in executions. So Ohio decided to experiment with a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. It’s a method never before tried.

What happened?

“According to a pool report from journalists who witnessed the execution, the whole process took more than 15 minutes, during which McGuire made ‘several loud snorting or snoring sounds.’ ”

Or, as a Dayton Daily News reporter who was present at the execution said: “At 10:29 a.m., his eyes rolled back as if he were going to sleep, and at 10:35 a.m., McGuire, who appeared to be unconscious, was convulsing, gagging and struggling to breathe.”

Or, as McGuire’s daughter, Amber McGuire, said as she witnessed her father dying: “Oh my God.”

So, it took longer for McGuire to die, and it appeared that he may have suffered more than those who were executed under the old, three-drug method, though of course no one knows for sure.

And not that the state of Ohio actually, you know, cared. In a court challenge to the new method’s use, Ohio’s assistant attorney general, Thomas Madden, told a federal judge, “You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.”

Which may, in fact, reflect the thinking of plenty of Americans. After all, you could argue that McGuire’s victim, Joy Stewart, undoubtedly suffered, so why should McGuire get off “easy”?


But, sorry, I just can’t bring myself to accept that argument. It’s one thing for a psychopath, or a damaged individual, to commit a horrific crime in which someone is killed. It’s something else for “we the people” to intentionally inflict a painful death on someone as punishment for such a crime.

Try as I might, I don’t accept that justice demands that we as a society stoop to the level of those we condemn.

And if you still think McGuire got off easy, think about this: It took him longer to die than it took for you to read this post.



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