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Family of Ohio inmate sues over drawn-out execution

2:33 PM, Jan 25, 2014   |    comments
Dennis McGuire
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The family of an Ohio inmate executed last week is suing the state and a drug company, claiming Dennis McGuire was a victim of "cruel and unusual punishment" when he appeared to "writhe in pain" during an almost half-hour ordeal.

The execution has led to calls for a moratorium on capital punishment in the state.

The suit targets state prison officials, the execution team and Hospira Inc., the Illinois-based company that manufactured the drugs used in the lethal injection given to McGuire on Jan. 16, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Dayton attorney Jon Paul Rion argues claims the execution violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- cruel and unusual punishment-- and the 14th Amendment right to due process.

"Executing a human being with a mixture of clinically untested drugs that cause the body to consciously writhe in pain for 25 minutes constitutes cruel and unusual punishment," the suit states. "Killing a human being in the undignified manned described above, in the presence of their family and other witnesses, creates a spectacle and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment."

The Dispatch, citing the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, reports that the drugs involved -- midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative -- cost $10.60 and were obtained from Central Pharmacy, the drug collaborative program run by the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

McGuire "repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain," the lawsuit said. "It looked and sounded as though he was suffocating."

An Associated Press analysis of the execution indicated that the execution lasted 26 minutes, the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999. The AP witness at the execution said McGuirre appeared to "fall unconscious and remaining so while he snorted, gasped and opened and shut his mouth repeatedly."

Hospira should have known that the drugs "would cause unnecessary and extreme pain and suffering during the execution process," the lawsuit said. Hospira officials did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2011, Hospira ended production of sodium thiopental, a drug used by many states for executions, including Ohio, after it couldn't guarantee to Italian authorities where its factory was located that the drug wouldn't be used for capital punishment.

McGuire, 53, was convicted in the 1989 murder of Joy Stewart, 22, who was 30 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.

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