On Thursday, the state of Ohio is scheduled to inject Dennis McGuire, 53, with two drugs: first, the sedative midazolam; then, the painkiller hydromorphone. When it is over, McGuire, who was convicted of the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart, will be dead – which is Ohio’s goal. But the procedure is untried and untested; the drugs that the state will employ have never been used in a death chamber.
And experts have warned in legal proceedings that if the process goes wrong, McGuire will not just peacefully drift away, but will be awake, struggling and failing to pull enough air into his lungs, until the drug overdose that will kill him takes hold.
"McGuire will experience the agony and terror of air hunger as he struggles to breathe for five minutes after defendants intravenously inject him with the execution drugs," his lawyers have said in court documents.
But on Monday a federal judge in Columbus, Ohio, ruled that McGuire's execution could go ahead. Judge Gregory Frost found that there was insufficient evidence to show a substantial risk of severe pain for the condemned man and said that “Ohio is free to innovate and to evolve its procedures for administering capital punishment.”