An Ohio man on death row took more than 25 minutes to die in an execution on Thursday morning. Prison officials reportedly used a drug combination previously untested in the United States to kill Dennis McGuire, a convicted murderer and rapist.
The episode at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville has sparked debate over the use of lethal injections in the United States. Some say the botched procedure on Thursday amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The group Ohioans to Stop Executions released a statement calling for an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the state in light of the incident.
According to a report from The Columbus Dispatch, McGuire gasped, struggled and choked for about 10 minutes before silencing and eventually succumbing.
Records show the execution was the longest in the state since Ohio resumed capital punishment 15 years ago. The next longest execution took 22 minutes. Most inmates took 15 minutes or less to die.
McGuire was put to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of Joy Stewart, who was 30 weeks pregnant at the time of her murder. At 22, Stewart was a newlywed.
Some of Stewart’s family members were present to watch the execution. Responding to the ire surrounding the incident, they released a statement saying McGuire suffered far less than Stewart had the night of her death: “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 suffer. As I recall the events preceding her death, forcing her from the car, attempting to rape her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, I know she suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her.”
McGuire’s lawyers attempted to block his execution last week, warning that the untried drug cocktail could lead to a medical problem called “air hunger,” making the victim unable to absorb oxygen.
Many states are developing new lethal injection cocktails after European drug manufacturers stopped selling drugs for use in executions.
The injection formula had been approved for use by a federal court.