When Harry Mitts, Jr. was executed at 10:39 Wednesday morning, his death not only meant an end to the saga of what has been called one of the worst crimes in Ohio history, it also meant that state has to come up with a new way to kill people.
The dose of pentobarbital that killed Mitts was the last one the state of Ohio had. Pentobarbital is the drug used in most lethal injection executions. All states that allow the death penalty use the lethal injection method, as does the federal government for its rare executions. The method is considered the most humane way to kill condemned prisoners.
In August of 1994, shouting racist insults, Mitts (pictured) went on a shooting rampage in the Cleveland suburb of Garfield Heights. Wielding a gun with a laser sighting device, Mitts shot and killed John Bryant, the African-American boyfriend of a neighbor. When police showed up, Garfield killed police Sgt. Dennis Glivar, who was white.
He shot and wounded two more police officers. He later claimed that he was not motivated by race hatred, but was drunk and distraught over a recent divorce. But he had the chance to kill two white neighbors before he saw Bryant and did not do it.
Mitts never explained why.
The 26th inmate to be executed in U.S. prisons this year, Mitts’ consumption of Ohio’s last supply of pentobarbital puts the state in a bind. The drug’s maker, Danish pharmaceutical concern Lundbeck LLC, will no longer sell the drug to buyers in the United States because the European Union officially opposes capital punishment.
Pentobarbital is itself a replacement for a previous drug, sodium thiopental, that is now no longer produced.
Texas has an execution scheduled for Thursday, September 26. Arturo Diaz is set to be put to death for the brutal murder in 1999 of Michael Nichols. Diaz stabbed Nichols 94 times with a butcher knife during a robbery attempt gone bad.
If the execution of Diaz is carried out as planned, Texas — the state that leads the nation in executions — will also be out of pentobarbital. However, the state’s Department of Criminal Justice issued a statement saying, “We have not changed our current execution protocol and have no immediate plans to do so.”
SOURCES: CBS News, Washington Post, Death Penalty Info, Austin Chronicle, KVUE News