In a surprise decision, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered a moratorium on all executions in the state of Ohio following concerns that the currently approved practice could be considered a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Warren Keith Henness was convicted and found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Richard Myers. He has never admitted to the crime and continues to plead innocence. He has been on death row since January 27, 1994.
As his date drew near, his legal defense proposed alternatives to the currently accepted form of lethal injection. A 2015 Supreme Court case grants inmates this right. The presiding judge refused the proposed alternative and said he must use the state approved means, though he conceded that it was almost a form of torture.
Following this, DeWine decided the state’s approach to lethal injection must be reexamined before any more are carried out. He noted:
In 2017, the Court heard extensive evidence that midazolam was not achieving the intended result of blocking the severe pain caused by the second and third drugs…we have good evidence that midazolam will cause the ‘waterboarding’ effects of pulmonary edema. If Ohio executes Warren Hennes under its present protocol, it will almost certainly subject him to severe pain and needless suffering. Reading the plain language of the Eighth Amendment, that should be enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
He has directed the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to investigate the matter and suggest alternatives.
Capital punishment as a state-managed process has existed in Ohio since 1885. For much of that time the electric chair was the preferred means of execution. In 1993 lethal injection was first introduced to the state, but inmates could still opt for the electric chair until 2001. The governor’s decision could give the many organizations that oppose the practice the window they need to push for all forms of capital punishment to be eliminated in Ohio.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected]
Photo “Mike DeWine” by JohnTuturrosSliderule. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Background Photo “Death Row Lethal Injection Table” by Ken Piorkowski. CC BY-SA 2.0.