Ohio Inmates Challenge New, Secretive Execution Protocol

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Four death-row inmates in Ohio are suing the state and hoping to block new rules that will shield the names of companies provided lethal injection drugs. 

Plaintiffs Ronald Phillips, Grady Brinkley, Raymond Tibbetts and Robert Van Hook asked the state on Monday to expedite their case and intervene prior to the new rules becoming effective on March 23. The inmates charged that the new protocol is unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment. Drug-producing companies have expressed reluctance to enter the lethal-injection market without first obtaining a guarantee of anonymity. Gov. John Kasich signed HB 663 into law late last year, granting that anonymity. 

In 2014, the state began using a controversial combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative, leading to the much-maligned death of Dennis McGuire. Supporters of the state's new law argue that companies will only begin producing and distributing these drugs for execution purposes if they are protected from harassment. Detractors argue the policy flies in the face of government transparency.

Phillips and Tibbetts are scheduled to be executed in February and March, respectively. (Phillips was the inmate who picked up a delay in his execution so that the state could assess the health of his organs and the feasibility of donating them to ailing relatives.)






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