Ohio Delays Executions Until 2017 Due To Drug Shortage

The state hasn't put anyone to death since an untested combination left an inmate gasping and snorting for 15 minutes in 2014.

Ohio won't attempt to execute anyone on its death row until at least 2017 as it faces a continuing shortage of lethal injection drugs.

Monday's announcement by the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction delays execution dates for a dozen of the 25 inmates who had been scheduled to be put to death through 2019. 

The state "continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions, but over the past few years it has become exceedingly difficult to secure those drugs because of severe supply and distribution restrictions," JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in a statement.  

States with the death penalty have faced widespread shortages of execution drugs in recent years as American drugmakers have withdrawn from making the substances and European companies have blocked sales to U.S. prisons. 

Ohio faced a drug shortage earlier this year, when it attempted to carry out its first execution since a controversial January 2014 lethal injection of Dennis McGuire that prompted a brief death penalty moratorium. McGuire gasped and snorted for 15 minutes and wordlessly opened and closed his mouth until he finally succumbed to an untested two-drug protocol.

The Food and Drug Administration warned the state in August against unlawfully trying to import drugs from overseas. 

Before 2009, when overseas drug manufacturers began cutting off supplies, states typically used a three-drug protocol. Now, some states, including Ohio, use a single drug.

Some of those still using three drugs have swapped the barbiturate sodium thiopental, now unavailable, with midazolam, a sedative used in several botched lethal injections. 

Of the 31 states that have the death penalty, Ohio is one of several that has passed strict secrecy laws that conceal the identity of drug suppliers, including lightly regulated compounding pharmacies. 

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