Ohio plans to resume death row executions in January, three years after they were halted in the wake of a prolonged execution, officials announced Monday.
The move to jump start capital punishment with a three-drug cocktail — the source of which is being kept secret — was immediately blasted by death penalty opponents.
"With this new execution procedure, Ohio is moving backward toward a procedure that poses greatly increased risks of pain and suffering," said Allen Bohnert of the Federal Public Defender's Office.
Ohio has not put a prisoner to death since January 2014 when convicted rapist-murderer Dennis McGuire took 25 minutes to die and appeared to be gasping for air, according to witnesses.
McGuire's injection was made of the sedative midazolam and hydromorphone. Starting next year, the state plans to use midazolam with the paralytic rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction noted that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the drug combination in a case last year.
Officials said during a court hearing that the drugs will not be compounded by a specialty pharmacy, suggesting the state has found a primary manufacturer to sell the chemicals — which is increasingly difficult with pharmaceutical firms under public pressure to stop their products from being used to kill.
Because Ohio has a law that shrouds the source of execution drugs in secrecy, it's unknown who is supplying the three chemicals.
The next death-row prisoner scheduled for execution is Ronald Phillips, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old. His attorneys are certain to contest Ohio's new protocol.