COLUMBUS, Ohio – A killer who repeatedly gasped and made other sounds during his lengthy execution by a new two-drug method was not coached to fake suffocation or make a show of his death, his lawyers said Tuesday in response to an earlier report.
Death row inmate Dennis McGuire may have misunderstood an attorney's request that he truthfully communicate what was happening to him during the Jan. 16 lethal injection, said federal public defenders who represented him.
"I'm sure that during all those conversations that were had at a very difficult time for Mr. McGuire, as you can imagine, that some of the information that was being discussed was clearly misunderstood," public defender Allen Bohnert said Tuesday.
McGuire told guards that state public defender Robert Lowe counseled him to make a show of his death that would, perhaps, lead to abolition of the death penalty, according to prison records released Monday. But the state public defender's office says an internal review failed to substantiate that allegation.
Bohnert said the unfounded allegations distracted from the problems with the execution, which he called a "horrific failure" violating the Constitution.
McGuire snorted, gasped and repeatedly opened and shut his mouth during his 26-minute execution by a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, the longest procedure since Ohio resumed putting inmates to death in 1999. McGuire appeared to be unconscious while making the noises.
McGuire's legal team asked Gov. John Kasich to impose a moratorium on capital punishment.
The state's lethal injection procedure is under review as it is after every execution, said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. He said Kasich supports the death penalty.
Three accounts from prison officials indicate McGuire refused to put on a display.
"He wants me to put on this big show in front of my kids, all right when I'm dying!" McGuire is reported as having told one guard. "I ain't gonna do this. It's about me and my kids, not him and his cause!"
McGuire, 53, was sentenced to die for raping and fatally stabbing a pregnant woman in 1989 in western Ohio.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .