DeWine shares few thoughts about a bill to add nitrogen gas to Ohio’s death penalty options

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Ohio’s last execution was in July 2018, six months before Gov. Mike DeWine took office. Attorney General Dave Yost, a fellow Republican, wants to change that with a nitrogen gas method tried for the first time ever in the U.S. last week, in Alabama.

Gov. Mike DeWine speaks to reporters
Gov. Mike DeWine speaks to reporters on Jan. 30, 2024. [Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau]
Yost is backing a Republican-sponsored bill to add nitrogen gas as a second option for capital punishment, which is in Ohio law.When asked about it a few hours after it was introduced, DeWine didn’t say how he feels about the bill, but noted it’s not the only one on the subject.“Well, you know, there’s a bill also in there to abolish the death penalty,” DeWine said. “So we have different bills. And it’s my practice not to really comment on them until something starts to move. So I don’t really have any comment at all.”DeWine has said Ohio has had difficulty in accessing drugs for lethal injection, but the nitrogen gas bill’s sponsors suggested more could be done. When DeWine was asked if he’d like to respond to that, he simply said, “No.”

A witness to the Alabama execution described the killer as “writhing around for a few minutes” before he died, but state leaders have said the execution went as expected.

Since 1999, 56 executions have taken place in Ohio. A few of them have had noteworthy complications.

In 2006, Joseph Clark raised his head off the gurney, saying “It don’t work. It don’t work.” Witnesses reported hearing moaning, crying and guttural noises during the 90 minute-long execution.

In 2009, Rommel Broom’s execution was stopped after two hours of unsuccessful attempts to establish a viable IV line for the procedure. He eventually died in prison of COVID in 2020.

In 2014, witnesses said Dennis McGuire said he appeared to be struggling to breathe during his execution, and was gasping loudly and making choking sounds for at least ten minutes. It took more than 25 minutes to execute him with a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone, which were drugs that hadn’t been used before after a drug that had been commonly used became difficult to obtain.

In 2017, the execution of Alva Campbell was put on hold after a suitable vein couldn’t be found. Campbell died of cancer and other health complications in 2018.