COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio will use two drugs never tried before in a US execution to put to death an inmate who raped and killed his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, the state prisons agency said Monday.
Lawyers for Ronald Phillips immediately sued to put off his Nov. 14 execution, saying Ohio delayed the announcement so long it didn’t leave enough time to investigate the new method.
The agency could not obtain a supply of its former execution drug, pentobarbital, spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.
The agency had considered using a compounding pharmacy after its supply of federally regulated pentobarbital expired last month. Instead, it will use an intravenous combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller.
Those drugs already are included in Ohio’s backup execution method, which has never been tried and requires them to be injected directly into an inmate’s muscle. No state has put a prisoner to death with that combination of drugs.
Florida uses midazolam as the first of three drugs, while Kentucky includes the two in its untested backup method.
Phillips, 40, was sentenced to death for killing Sheila Marie Evans in 1993 after a long period of abusing her.
Governor John Kasich is weighing clemency for Phillips after the Parole Board’s unanimous recommendation against mercy last week.
Attorneys for Phillips filed documents in federal court Friday, seeking to expand a current lawsuit to challenge the use of compounded pentobarbital. They filed an updated complaint Monday hours after the state’s announcement it was using the two other drugs instead.
Judge Gregory Frost scheduled a hearing for Friday.
Phillips’s lawyers also are challenging the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s decision to allow its director to delegate responsibilities for some execution duties.
Ohio’s execution policy calls for it to try to buy specialty batches of pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which mix individual doses of drugs for specific patients. If that fails, the policy calls for the use of the two-drug approach.
A plan by Georgia to use a similar specialty batch of pentobarbital was put on hold by a lawsuit challenging the state prison agency’s refusal to identify the compounding pharmacy that provided the drug.
The suit also questions the drug’s safety and effectiveness.