Last September, public defenders for Reynolds appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court and a federal appeals court for a stay of execution, arguing that Ohio's lethal-injection procedure – which at the time involved a cocktail of three drugs – was “flawed,” according to a court brief. Since then, Ohio has become the first state to employ a one-drug method, which involves a single but significantly larger dose of lethal fluids, which death penalty advocates say is painless.
The catalyst for the change was the September execution of Romell Broom, who was convicted of the 1984 abduction, rape, and murder of a 14-year-old girl.
In that case, authorities could not find a usable vein on Mr. Broom’s body in which to inject the three-drug cocktail. As a result, Broom was stuck with needles at least 18 times over the course of two hours. That incident followed two others in Ohio during the past three years, both of which involved difficulties inserting the IV.
Following the Broom execution, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) ordered the Reynolds execution postponed.
Reynolds’ legal team argued that Ohio's lethal-injection process was a violation of Reynolds' constitutional rights and that the state should not be allowed to execute him “with the same incompetent and ill-trained execution team.”
Ohio settled the matter to the courts' satisfaction by introducing the one-drug lethal injection in December, though Reynolds' legal team continued to argue that the state's executioners were not properly trained. According to reports, the execution team took 30 minutes to find a useable vein in December.
Following Ohio, Washington last month became the second state to adopt the one-drug procedure.
The recent evolution of the lethal injection process has come about because state prison authorities often botch the three-step procedure, which is designed to keep the prisoner from waking up during the final phase, when pain is said to be at its worst, says Stefanie Faucher, associate director of Death Penalty Focus, a San Francisco-based advocacy group. Ms. Faucher says prison officials often use staffers instead of licensed medial professionals, which death penalty foes say points to a broken system.
“Each change is supposedly bringing about a new level of humaneness and a new level of santization, but in the end, it’s all still killing,” she says. “We have to ask ourselves … What are we trying to accomplish when we try to switch ways of killing that are less horrible, and should we should be killing prisoners?”