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DeWine’s Dismissal Of Fentanyl Executions Maintains Execution Gridlock

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.

Gov. Mike DeWine says that no executions will take place in Ohio anytime soon, saying the state can’t find a method for executions under state law that would get approval from a federal court. The governor also dismissed a proposal by state Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) to use an illegal opioid for lethal injections.

DeWine said earlier this year that no executions would go forward until the state had a method for executions that would be okayed by a federal court. He asked the prisons department to come up with a new method to replace the three drugs it uses now, which are nearly impossible to find.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections director Annette Chambers-Smith said her agency wouldn't rush the development of that protocol. DeWine said in May  he expected to have a protocol to submit to the court sometime in the next several weeks.

However, speaking after a meeting at the Ohio Expo Commission, he said there’s a problem.

“We see no protocol that we could put forward that would be allowed under Ohio law," he said.

DeWine said he fears retribution from companies that sell the state drugs for Medicaid and other programs – some of which say they don’t want their drugs used in executions.

The governor said he doesn't think the proposal from Wiggam to use police-seized fentanyl would be allowed by the courts as well.

“Based on what I have been told by people who are familiar with fentanyl, we do not believe it would pass constitutional muster," DeWine said.

Wiggam has said fentanyl was used in Nebraska last year, and that he’ll make changes to his bill, which he says will have co-sponsors.

He's been circulating a request for lawmakers to sign onto his proposal, and said there's interest, but hasn't said how many would attach their names to it. Ohio would be the first state in the country to pass this idea if it goes through.

Anti-death penalty advocates like the ACLU of Ohio have called Wiggam's idea "silly" and "tone deaf."

Two executions are set for later this year, one in November and one in December. A total of 25 inmates are set for execution through 2024.