An Ohio death row inmate became the first to be executed with a new combination of drugs during his lethal injection on Thursday. His case was controversial because his lawyer had argued that the use of the combination of drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, was inhumane and otherwise untested.
The man, Dennis McGuire, was sentenced to death for raping and killing Joy Stewart in 1989. Stewart was pregnant at the time.
According to the Washington Post, the injections took over 25 minutes to end McGuire’s life. He reportedly said “I love you. I love you,” to his family even after he had been injected with the combination of drugs.
Despite concerns over the drug’s effects, which were otherwise untested in the United States, a judge ruled that the Constitution does not state that death row inmates must die painlessly, only that cruel or unusual punishment not be used.
The United States had typically used a drug called pentobarbital in its lethal injection proceedings, but has been searching for an alternative ever since a Danish manufacturer of the drug began prohibiting sales to US execution services. According to The Independent, the European Union claimed that it would restrict sales of Propofol, one of the drugs considered by US prisons as an alternative, if the drug began to be used in US executions.
In McGuire’s trial, expert witness Dr. Mark Dershwitz claimed “I truly don’t know how many minutes it will take the inmate to stop breathing. There is no science to guide me on exactly how long this is going to take.”
Thus, McGuire’s execution was deemed by many as an experiment on behalf of the US prison system. Whether or not execution services are to continue using the drug remains to be seen.