COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio will use a dose of two drugs untried in the U.S. to put to death a condemned inmate who raped and killed a pregnant woman, according to a decision by the state prison system obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
The determination means the prisons agency was unable to obtain an unregulated batch of pentobarbital, the drug Ohio used until its manufacturer put it off limits for executions.
Instead, the state will use drugs from its untested backup execution method in the Jan. 16 execution of Dennis McGuire, according to the decision contained in a memo by Southern Ohio Correctional Facility warden Donald Morgan released to the AP after a public records request.
The untested method: an intravenous combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. No state has put a prisoner to death with those drugs in any fashion.
The drugs were part of a backup method in which they would be injected into an inmate's muscle if the intravenous method failed. Because the pentobarbital is unavailable, this two-drug combination will be the primary method for execution and injected into McGuire's veins.
McGuire, 53, of Preble County in western Ohio, was sentenced to death for killing Joy Stewart in 1989 after meeting her while working on her friend's house. Investigators say McGuire raped and choked the 22-year-old Stewart and stabbed her in the neck and shoulder. Stewart was about eight months pregnant.
Ohio's revamped execution policy calls for the state to try to buy specialty batches of pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which mix individual doses of drugs for specific patients. If that fails, the policy recommends the use of the two-drug approach.
Florida uses midazolam as the first of three drugs, while Kentucky includes the two Ohio is using in its untested backup method.
The Ohio Parole Board recommended against clemency for McGuire. Gov. John Kasich has the final say.
A message was left with McGuire's attorney Tuesday.
Attorneys for McGuire have argued a jury never got to hear the full extent of his chaotic childhood and physical, sexual and mental abuse he suffered.
They also say the fact the state offered him a plea deal — which McGuire rejected — should be considered in granting him mercy.
Prosecutors say McGuire deserves the death penalty because of the shocking nature of the crime.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.