Judge: Ohio 'Free to Innovate' When It Comes to State Murder

A federal judge in Ohio has approved the state’s plan to kill convicted killer Dennis McGuire by using an untested mixture of drugs that his lawyers, informed by experts, say could leave the man writhing in pain from the “agony and terror of air hunger” as his lungs shut down.

A state prosecutor in the case told the court that McGuire—convicted in the rape and murder of a woman named Joy Stewart in 1989—”is not entitled to a pain-free execution” as he won the case before presiding Judge Gregory Frost.

“Ohio is free to innovate and to evolve its procedures for administering capital punishment,” Frost said in his ruling against McGuire’s lawyers who were pushing for a stay of exectuion based on the use of the un-tested drugs.

Ohio plans to use a dose of midazolam, a sedative, combined with hydromorphone, a painkiller, to put McGuire to death, but his lawyers contend that the unproven combination could result in extreme pain. McGuire could be put to death as early as Thursday.

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The situation stems from a shortage of other drugs tradtionally used in lethal injection executions. As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington describes:

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