July 24, 2020

Ohio Governor Postpones All Executions Scheduled for 2020

As of June 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has postponed all six executions originally scheduled for the year, citing difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs. John Hanna, Romell Broom, and Douglas Coley were scheduled to be executed on June 16, June 17, and August 12, 2020, respectively. On April 14, Governor DeWine rescheduled their executions for 2022. In September 2009, the execution of Mr. Broom was called off after executioners unsuccessfully attempted to establish a viable IV line for two hours. On June 5, Governor DeWine postponed the remaining 2020 executions. The executions of Kareem Jackson (September 16), Stanley Fitzpatrick (October 14), and David Sneed (December 9), are now scheduled for September 2022 through April 2023.

The reprieves are the latest action taken in light of recent uncertainty surrounding Ohio’s ability to carry out the death penalty. In 2019, Governor DeWine indicated that the state would not carry out additional executions until it was able to identify a pharmaceutical company willing to sell the state drugs for the intended purpose of executions. In a news release, the governor’s office said the reprieves were issued as a result of “ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to the DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans.”

The governor has emphasized the state’s difficulty acquiring drugs without potentially jeopardizing relationships with drug companies. Governor DeWine has expressed concern that pharmaceutical companies may refuse to sell important drugs (not just drugs used in lethal injections) to the state if they find that Ohio has used their drugs in executions, potentially endangering the ability of thousands of Ohioans—such as Medicaid recipients and prisoners—to get necessary drugs through state programs.

The last execution in Ohio occurred in 2018, with the execution of Robert Van Hook. The latest reprieves mark the eighth time Governor DeWine has delayed executions since taking office in 2019. Governor DeWine issued the first reprieve of his term in January 2019, after a federal judge found that Ohio’s three-drug protocol likely produced a painful drowning sensation comparable to waterboarding and granted a preliminary injunction. Though the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned the judge’s ruling, Governor DeWine has continued to stress the need for a new execution protocol.