Ohio's New Lethal Injection Procedures Include 'Pinching Inmate' to Test for Consciousness

The first execution under Ohio’s new lethal injection procedure was conducted on June 3.  Questions about the effectiveness of the first of the three drugs used, as well as recent botched executions, have brought Ohio’s procedures under scrutiny. The new procedures include a procedure for the warden to pinch the inmate to make sure the first drug works before administering the second, which has been described as excrutiatingly painful . "The warden will call their name, shake their shoulder a bit and give the upper arm a pinch just to see if he responds," explained Chief Legal Counsel for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Greg Trout. "An unconscious person shouldn't respond. If there is no response, we assume the offender is unconscious." Prior to the procedure update, prison officials had trouble inserting shunts to carry the drugs during the execution of two inmates, Christopher Newton in 2007 and Joseph Clark in 2006. Newton’s procedure lasted so long he was given a break to use the restroom; Clark cried out during his execution that the injection “isn’t working.”  Ohio defense lawyer Jeffrey Gamso doubts the effectiveness of the new rules. "They are still using three drugs. There is no reason to use three drugs," said Gamso, the former legal director for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union. "Here is what we know about three drugs: two of them serve no purpose in getting the guy dead ... Our expert and the state's expert have said using three drugs increases the risk of causing excruciating pain. So this new policy, it's nibbling around the edges."

(R. Fields, "Ohio lethal injection execution procedures revamped to make sure inmate is sedated," Plain Dealer News, May 21, 2009).  See Lethal Injection and Recent Legislation.