In re: Ohio Execution Protocol, No. 17-3076 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Ohio’s execution protocol allows for lethal injection using a three-drug combination of midazolam; either vecuronium bromide, pancuronium bromide, or rocuronium bromide, which are paralytics; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The midazolam is intended to ensure that the person being executed is insensate to the pain that the other drugs cause. If midazolam does not “render the prisoner unconscious,” then “there is a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of suffocation . . . and pain” from the second two drugs. The district court granted a preliminary injunction to allow for further litigation regarding midazolam’s efficacy before Ohio executes three men. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The ultimate question is whether use of midazolam “entails a substantial risk of severe pain” as compared to “a known and available alternative.” Plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of that claim. The public has an interest in sentences being carried out, but also also has an interest in ensuring that those sentences are carried out in a constitutional manner. The court cited estoppel, noting that Ohio represented that it was not going to use pancuronium bromide or potassium bromide “going forward,” and that there was “no possibility” it would revert to using those drugs and subsequently acted inconsistently with those representations.