Ohio execution plan allows at least three tries

Associated Press and Associated Press

COLUMBUS – Ohio’s new backup plan for executing inmates by injection allows at least three attempts to administer drugs through muscles in the arms or legs, with the strength increasing if a third attempt is needed.

The backup would be used if administering a single powerful anesthetic through a vein doesn’t work.

The plan described in federal court documents filed Monday requires executioners to check the inmate five minutes after the two backup drugs are administered and inject a second dose of the two drugs, if the inmate is still breathing.

Executioners would check again, after five minutes and administer a much larger dose of just one drug if the inmate continues to breathe. The plan says any doses after the third try must also involve the larger amount.

The state adopted the new procedures in time for the Dec. 8 execution of Kenneth Biros. He would be the first person in the country put to death by just one drug, presuming the backup plan isn’t needed.

The state had two goals in switching to a new, single-drug injection procedure last month: ending a long-running court challenge to the old, three-drug method, and avoiding the type of botched execution that happened in September, when an execution was stopped because a usable vein couldn’t be found for condemned inmate Romell Broom.

The new procedure involves administering into the vein a single, large dose of the anesthetic thiopental sodium.

The state says that that method avoids the argument that inmates could suffer severe pain under the three-drug system. Some inmates challenging the three-drug method have also pushed for the single-drug system instead.

If a usable vein can’t be found, under the new plan, two drugs can be injected directly into an inmate’s muscles.

That would address what Broom underwent on Sept. 15, when executioners tried unsuccessfully for two hours to find a usable vein, sticking him as many as 18 times.

Broom will argue in federal court next week that the state shouldn’t be allowed to try a second time to put him to death.

Biros, 51, wants his execution delayed, saying that proceeding with the new system without further study would amount to human experimentation. But his attorneys also have argued in the past that the one-drug method was ‘an available and easily implemented alternative’ to the three-drug procedure.

Biros killed and dismembered 22-year-old Tami Engstrom near Warren in 1991 after he offered to drive her home from a bar.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to delay the execution. Biros appealed to the full appeals court and the state on Tuesday asked the court to again reject his request.