COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's governor delayed a condemned child killer's execution on Wednesday to study the feasibility of allowing the man to donate his organs.
Gov. John Kasich's decision came less than 24 hours before 40-year-old Ronald Phillips was scheduled to die for raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993. His lethal injection using a two-drug combination untried in the U.S. has been reset to July 2.
In stopping Thursday's execution, Kasich said he wants to allow time to study Phillips' last-minute request to see if it can help someone else.
Kasich said that while Phillips' crime was heinous, his willingness to donate organs and tissue could save another life and the state should try to accommodate a donation.
"I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen," Kasich said in a statement.
If Phillips is found to be a viable donor to his mother, who has kidney disease and is on dialysis, or others awaiting organ transplants of non-vital organs, those procedures would be performed and then he would be returned to death row, the governor's office said.
It appears that Phillips' offer to donate his heart to his sister, who suffers a heart ailment, would not be possible under the governor's directive since the heart is a vital organ.
Phillips made his request to be an organ donor on Monday after he had been denied mercy by Kasich and his other legal options were exhausted. He says it wasn't a delay tactic but an attempt to do good.
State officials denied the request on Tuesday, saying a host of logistical and security issues made it unworkable. A spokeswoman said the department moved swiftly to evaluate the request but determined it was not equipped to accommodate pre- or post-execution organ donations. An earlier kidney donation may have been possible under prison medical policy, but Phillips never requested one, they said.
The state left it up to Phillips' family whether the organs will be harvested after his body is turned over to them Thursday. It wasn't clear whether the organs would still be viable at that point.
Phillips had been moved to Ohio's death house Wednesday, but a prisons spokeswoman said Phillips will be returned to death row to await the assessment's findings.