As the pace of executions has accelerated in Ohio (it was second only to Texas is executions last year), the Buckeye State has been at the center of death penalty debates in the U.S. Since the miserably failed execution of Romell Broom (in which he was subjected to two hours of unsuccessful attempts to find a vein suitable for injecting the lethal drugs) Ohio has twice switched execution protocols – first, moving to a one drug method (a massive dose of the anesthetic sodium thiopental), and now, as that drug’s manufacturer has taken it off the market, a one drug dose of a different anesthetic, pentobarbital, which is commonly used to put down animals.
The first execution in Ohio to incorporate this new drug is scheduled for March 10.
Meanwhile, those who know Ohio’s death penalty the best have begun to assert that Ohio should just abolish the death penalty. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, who as a state Senator was largely responsible for enacting Ohio’s death penalty law, has called for an end to capital punishment in his state. And Terry Collins, a former warden who personally witnessed 33 executions, has also urged Ohioans to give up the death penalty.
On the question of capital punishment, Ohio is moving simultaneously in two different directions. Will Ohio ignore the voices of those most experienced with the death penalty and continue to execute prisoners at a record pace? Or will the people of Ohio heed those voices and move to shut down Ohio’s incredibly dysfunctional death penalty once and for all?