Attorneys for the family of convicted killer Dennis McGuire of Preble County said today they plan to file a court action to halt executions in Ohio, saying McGuire’s execution on Thursday violated constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
“The agony and terror of watching my dad suffocate to death lasted more than 19 minutes,” said Dennis R. McGuire, 32, the executed man’s son. “It was the most awful moment in my life to witness my dad’s execution. I can’t think of any other way to describe it than torture.”
McGuire was sentenced to the death penalty for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart of West Alexandria, who was nearly eight months pregnant when she was killed.
“The question is whether the state of Ohio should duplicate the actions of a criminal, and our answer is no,” said Jon Paul Rion of the Dayton law firm Rion, Rion and Rion, which plans to file the suit in federal court next week.
The execution Thursday was unusual in how long it took – more than 20 minutes – and that McGuire appeared to convulse and gasp for breath for roughly 10 minutes after he appeared to lose consciousness.
Rion said the suit will seek an injunction against use of the drugs that killed McGuire – which had never been used in an execution — as well as against executions in the state. He would not expound on whether the suit will seek monetary damages, saying “it’s not about that.”
“Most civilized countries do not execute people,” he said.
Gregory Lott is the next inmate scheduled for execution on March 19. Lott was convicted of breaking into an East Cleveland home, dousing the 82-year-old homeowner with lamp oil and setting him ablaze on July 12, 1988. The man died in a hospital 11 days later.
Ohio officials won’t say if they plan to use the same drugs on Lott that they used on McGuire, but their firmly adhered to protocol says it’s their backup method if the drug that was previously used is unavailable. The makers of that drug have prohibited its use in executions, making it unavailable.
McGuire’s children took turns describing the experience of watching as their father gasped for air so loudly they could hear it through the glass partition. Amber McGuire, 28, covered her ears during the procedure.
“Nobody deserves to go through that,” Dennis R. McGuire said.
The family of McGuire’s victim Joy Stewart also witnessed the execution. During the entire procedure, they watched nearly soundlessly. They released a statement after the execution that appeared to written before it, but that addressed concerns raised by McGuire’s attorneys in a failed effort to stop the execution that the new drugs would cause “air hunger” and “agony and terror.”
“He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her,” the statement reads. Ultimately, we must all face judgment – both here on Earth and in heaven. It is time to face his judgment.”