Lethal Injection Questions Prompt Official Reviews in Louisiana, Florida, Ohio

Questions about the appropriateness of new lethal injection methods have recently stayed executions in Louisiana and Ohio and caused the Florida Supreme Court to order a hearing prior to the next execution there. In Louisiana, Christopher Sepulvado received a 90-day stay to allow a federal court to determine whether the state’s new protocol violates his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. He was scheduled to be executed on February 5. The Florida Supreme Court ordered a similiar hearing to be held before Paul Howell’s scheduled execution on February 26 to examine the state’s new protocol. In Ohio, Governor John Kasich ordered an 8-month stay of execution for Gregory Lott so the state can complete a review of its new lethal injection procedure, first used to execute Dennis McGuire on January 16, resulting in gasping and choking sounds from the inmate. The common drug in question in all three states is midazolam, a sedative used as the first drug in a 2- or 3-drug protocol.

(A. Welsh-Huggins, “Ohio governor issues 8-month reprieve for condemned inmate after recent lengthy execution,” Associated Press, February 7, 2014; J. Berlew, “Hearing ordered on state’s use of execution drugs,” Tallahassee Democrat, February 7, 2014; “Louisiana delays execution after challenge to lethal drug combo,” Reuters, February 3, 2014). See Lethal Injection and Upcoming Executions.