Convicted killer Dennis McGuire took more than 15 minutes to die on Thursday when he was lethally injected with an untested drug combination.
Ohio officials used a combination of sedative and painkiller to execute McGuire, instead of the normal three-drug combo used before the pentobarbital shortage.
His attorneys argued that the process amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, causing painful suffocation and a substantial risk of “agony and terror.”
A federal judge ruled Monday that the drug combo would not pose a significant level of pain to McGuire.
Before the execution, McGuire thanked the family of his victim, Joy Stewart, for sending him a kind letter, the Associated Press reported. McGuire was convicted of raping and killing the pregnant 22-year-old in 1989.
"I'm going to heaven, I'll see you there when you come," he announced.
He also told his family, “I love you. I love you.”
After the injection, five minutes went by without movement and then McGuire convulsed and made loud snorting and snoring sounds. He gasped for air and also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell.
"Oh my God," his daughter, Amber McGuire, said as she observed the execution.
The last sound he made was a cough at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.
Federal public defender Allen Bohnert, who did not witness the execution, called McGuire's death "a failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio."
The sounds McGuire made during the execution were not seen when former lethal injection drugs were used and death was much faster.
"The court's concerns expressed earlier this week have been confirmed," said Bohnert. "And more importantly, the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names."
Josh Sweigart, a reporter for the Dayton Daily News who witnessed the execution, told “Anderson Cooper 360” Thursday night that the execution was “very difficult to watch.”
Sweigart says after five minutes passed, McGuire was “clearly gasping” and “clearly struggling to breathe.”
“That went on for about ten minutes,” he said. “His family cried loudly and at one point one of them said ‘How can this possibly take so long?’ Meanwhile the victims family … they said nothing. They watched silently.”
"We have forgiven him, but that does not negate the need for him to pay for his actions," said Stewart’s sister, Carol Avery, in a statement released after McGuire's death.
“The Supreme Court has said executions have to be two things,” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told Anderson Cooper. “They have to be effective – they have to kill – and they have to be humane. It turns out it’s really hard to do both.”