November 28, 2014


Ohio killer executed with new lethal drug combo

Dennis McGuire

Dennis McGuire

LUCASVILLE — A condemned Ohio inmate appeared to gasp several times and took more than 15 minutes to die Thursday as he was executed with a combination of drugs never before tried in the U.S.

Dennis McGuire’s attorney, federal public defender Allen Bohnert, called his client’s death “a failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio.”

McGuire’s attorneys had attempting to halt his execution last week, arguing the untried method put him at substantial risk of “agony and terror” while straining to catch his breath as he experienced a medical phenomenon known as air hunger.

McGuire made several loud snorting or snoring sounds during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.

Intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, were used to put McGuire to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman, Joy Stewart. The method was adopted after supplies of a previously used drug dried up because the manufacturer put it off limits for capital punishment.

Strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber, McGuire thanked Stewart’s family for their “kind words” in a letter he apparently received from them.

“I’m going to heaven, I’ll see you there when you come,” he said through a microphone held by the warden.

As his adult children sobbed a few feet away in a witness room, McGuire opened and shut his left hand as if waving to his daughter, son and daughter-in-law.

More than a minute later he raised himself up, looked in the direction of his family and said, “I love you. I love you” — his words audible even though the microphone had been removed.

McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He 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 her father’s final moments.

A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire’s last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.

Previous executions with the former execution method took much less time, and typically did not include the types of snorts and gasps that McGuire uttered.

Attorneys for the state called McGuire’s bid to halt his execution with the untried method an “eleventh hour” appeal based on claims that should have been raised years ago, because the process had been in place as a backup method.

And although the U.S. Constitution bans executions that constitute cruel and unusual punishment, that doesn’t mean procedures are entirely comfortable, an assistant Ohio attorney general argued.

“You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution,” attorney Thomas Madden told a federal judge.

The judge sided with the state but acknowledged the new method was an experiment. At the request of McGuire’s lawyers, Judge Gregory Frost ordered the state to photograph and then preserve the drugs’ packaging boxes and vials and the syringes used in the execution.

“The court’s concerns expressed earlier this week have been confirmed,” said Bohnert, who did not witness the execution. “And more importantly, the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names.”

A few minutes before the execution, state prison director Gary Mohr said he was confident the execution would be carried out in a humane and dignified manner.

As is common practice, prison officials did not immediately comment after the execution except to release the time of death.

McGuire, 53, was put to death for killing Stewart, a newlywed who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death, in western Ohio’s Preble County.

“We have forgiven him, but that does not negate the need for him to pay for his actions,” said a statement released by Carol Avery, Stewart’s sister, after McGuire’s death.

Stewart’s slaying went unsolved for 10 months until McGuire, jailed on an unrelated assault and hoping to improve his legal situation, told investigators he had information about the woman’s Feb. 12, 1989, death. His attempts to blame the crime on his brother-in-law quickly unraveled and soon he was accused of being Stewart’s killer, according to prosecutors.

More than a decade later, DNA evidence confirmed McGuire’s guilt, and he acknowledged that he was responsible in a letter to Gov. John Kasich last month.

“One can scarcely conceive of a sequence of crimes more shocking to the conscience or to moral sensibilities than the senseless kidnapping and rape of a young, pregnant woman followed by her murder,” Preble County prosecutors said in a filing with the state parole board last month.

His attorneys argued McGuire was mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child and has impaired brain function that makes him prone to act impulsively.

“Dennis was at risk from the moment he was born,” the lawyers said in a parole board filing. “The lack of proper nutrition, chaotic home environment, abuse, lack of positive supervision and lack of positive role models all affected Dennis’ brain development.”

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show McGuire unsuccessfully sought a reprieve in recent weeks to try to become an organ donor. In November, Kasich granted a death row inmate an eight-month reprieve to let the prison system study his request to donate a kidney to his sister and his heart to his mother.

Kasich said McGuire couldn’t identify a family member who would receive his organs, as required under prison policy.

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    Good riddance.

  • onesears

    Didn’t suffer long enough if you ask me..

  • SandyLey

    I don’t understand the point of this story. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the creature because he suffered a little mental discomfort and couldn’t catch his breath before he died ? I can’t help but wonder about the suffering of his victim, Knowing that not only was he killing her but also killing her unborn child.

  • Lari Masters

    He should have been put to death the same way he put his young victim and her unborn child was. Eye for an eye… he made her and the baby suffer a tragic death and he got off way to easy,

  • Zen Grouch

    Does it really matter how the trash makes it to the can at the curbside?

    **poor baby**

  • Brandy Lynn

    “You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution,” attorney Thomas Madden told a federal judge. === perfectly put.

  • Nick Rosemark

    We don’t need to know what goes on in an execution room. All we need to know is that the man that’s about to die deserves to be there.

    • Bob Sweatt

      What I always want to know is. Why does it take almost 20 years to get them to the execution room??

      • Nick Rosemark

        One word Bob, lawyers.

  • Pebody

    too f*&^)%* bad, i’ll bet the last thing he was worried about when he committed the crimes was how the victims felt. and to think taxes have been supporting this guy all these years……

  • stop ur whining

    called his client’s death “a failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio.”…Exactly WHY should a convicted murderer sentenced to die be given a quick painless “humane” death? Was he humane when he took peoples lives?

    Man sometimes this country enrages me. If your on death row, we, the public should vote…drown him, poison, cut him up, torture him…put it on TV. Maybe we can detour others from committing the same crimes if they see an death row inmate drawn and quartered

  • Frank Siegfried

    Used a new and untried method. Well, a rope has been used for years, effectively I might add, as well as bullets and electric chair. Hell, have him dig his own grave then beat him to death with the shovel. As long as he is dead, who cares about the method.

  • proccw

    he should be “appalled” by what he did to that woman and her unborn child! he got what he deserved.

  • Crow

    When they were executed with the three drug combo, you never saw the effects of them going thru the “agonal” breathing as described. They used to give a paralytic drug in the three drug cocktail. It paralyzes all movement, including breathing.

    Now, you’re going to see it. (from Wiki)

    In most states, the intravenous injection is a series of drugs given in a set sequence, designed to first induce unconsciousness followed by death through paralysis of respiratory muscles and/or by cardiac arrest through depolarization of cardiac muscle cells. The execution of the condemned in most states involves three separate injections (in sequential order):

    Sodium thiopental or pentobarbital:[14] ultra-short action barbiturate, an anesthetic agent used at a high dose that renders the prisoner unconscious in less than 30 seconds. Depression of respiratory activity is one of the characteristic actions of this drug.[15] Consequently, the lethal-injection doses, as described in the Sodium Thiopental section below, will — even in the absence of the following two drugs — cause death due to lack of breathing, as happens with overdoses of opioids.

    Pancuronium bromide: non-depolarizing muscle relaxant, causes complete, fast and sustained paralysis of the skeletal striated muscles, including the diaphragm and the rest of the respiratory muscles; this would eventually cause death by asphyxiation.

    Potassium chloride: stops the heart, and thus causes death by cardiac arrest

  • INavon

    I realized that one argument against capital punishment is that is cruel and our government should be civilized with it’s justice. Another is that innocent people could be sentenced. BUT…in this case there is no doubt about his guilt and his victim suffered worse cruelty by McGuire’s hand. So, let’s be honest and admit we don’t care if the execution was ideal. On a side note, why would his children want to be witnesses?

  • Phil Blank

    Why pay for the drugs to kill (murder) him?
    Start using all the heroin and fake heroin the cops took off the streets, its a heck of a lot cheaper!

    • formerlorainresident

      How about going “old school.” Use a rope, it is cheap and can reused!

  • Mike Litoris

    He violently raped a pregnant woman, cut her, and left her to die in the woods…

    His family ought to be ashamed for sharing his blood.