As the lethal drugs flowed into his veins in the Ohio death chamber, Dennis B. McGuire at first “went unconscious” and his body was still, his daughter, Amber McGuire, said Friday.But a few minutes later, she said, she was horrified to see her father struggling, his stomach heaving, a fist clenching.“He started making all these horrible, horrible noises, and at that point, that’s when I covered my eyes and my ears,” said Ms. McGuire, who watched the execution on Thursday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, near Lucasville. “He was suffering.”Mr. McGuire’s execution, conducted with a new and untested combination of drugs, took about 25 minutes from the time the drugs were started to the time death was declared. The process, several witnesses said, was accompanied by movement and gasping, snorting and choking sounds.
Ms. McGuire and her brother, also named Dennis McGuire, said Friday that they plan to file a federal lawsuit next week alleging that the execution violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.“We’re mainly just hoping that no other family has to go through what we went through yesterday,” Ms. McGuire said.Allen Bohnert, the lawyer who represented Mr. McGuire, called the execution “a failed, agonizing experiment by the State of Ohio.”
Ohio, which had run out of its supply of pentobarbital, used a combination of midazolam, an anti-anxiety drug in the same family as Valium, and hydromorphone, a powerful narcotic derived from morphine. A court gave its approval to the combination, overruling lawyers for Mr. McGuire who had argued that the drugs could cause “air hunger,” a struggle for breath that, the lawyers said, could result in “agony and terror.”But in persuading the court to allow the use of the drugs, Thomas Madden, an Ohio assistant attorney general, argued that although there are constitutional protections, “you’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.”
In Wyoming, the shortage of lethal injection drugs has led State Senator Bruce Burns, Republican of Sheridan County, to propose offering a firing squad as an alternative method of execution. Currently, the gas chamber is the only alternative available in Wyoming, but the state does not have one. Mr. Burns said that given the infrequency of executions, a gas chamber is too costly to maintain. In Missouri, State Representative Rick Brattin introduced a bill on Thursday to add firing squads as an option.