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Monday, August 19, 2019

Gov. DeWine Says Fentanyl is Actually 'Not an Option' for Executions

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 12:46 PM

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has batted down a suggestion from a fellow Republican state lawmaker that would have the state use fentanyl seized by law enforcement officers to conduct executions.

State Rep. Scott Wiggam, who represents Wooster and surrounding areas, said last week that he is working on legislation that would allow the state to use the powerful synthetic opiate in lieu of a controversial three-drug cocktail that was used until recently. Wiggam says that fentanyl is a more humane way to execute inmates than the electric chair, firing squad or the state's currently-paused method, which opponents say causes sensations similar to drowning.

But DeWine says the idea is a non-starter.

“Fentanyl is not an option,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “We do not believe it would pass constitutional muster. We do not believe it would be upheld by a court, so there’s really no reason to come forward with that proposal.”

Objections to the use of Midazolam, one of Ohio's previous execution drugs believed to cause prolonged, possibly painful executions, have led to court battles over Ohio's current death penalty methods.

Late last month, DeWine paused scheduled executions after drug makers told the state that they will cut off all supplies of drugs used for multiple other purposes if the state also uses those drugs to put inmates to death.

Just a small amount of fentanyl is enough to kill a person, and the drug has led to thousands of overdose deaths a year in Ohio. Those on the front lines of the opioid crisis have criticized Wiggam's proposal.

"Not getting into the political debate of the death penalty," Newtown Police Chief and Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Co-Chair Tom Synan tweeted last week. "Just tired of fentanyl killing people, it has killed enough. Wish fentanyl never hit the streets. Much rather we find more ways to stop its destruction than to aid its cycle of death."

Nebraska was the first state to conduct an execution using fentanyl last year. The drug used, however, was obtained from a licensed pharmacy.

Some experts point out that the purity and strength of street fentanyl is unpredictable, which could lead to yet more botched executions.

Ohio's last execution took place in July 2018, when the state put Robert Van Hook to death for killing and disemboweling a neighbor.

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