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Ohio inmate's family files lawsuit over prolonged execution

The children of convicted murderer Dennis McGuire filed a lawsuit on Friday in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] over the method used in McGuire's 26-minute long execution, which they say amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. McGuire, who was convicted [AP report] in 1994 of raping and murdering a 22-year-old girl in 1989 and lost his appeal [text, PDF] to the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1997, was executed earlier this month [JURIST report] using a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative. The lawsuit asks the federal court to stop future executions [Columbus Dispatch report] because these drugs have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] for such a purpose. McGuire's family is targeting [AP report] Hospira Inc. [corporate website], the manufacturer of the drugs and is seeking damages above $75,000, claiming that the company knew that the drugs would be used for executions when they sold them to Ohio and should have known that they would cause "unnecessary and extreme pain and suffering during the execution process." McGuire's execution, during which he repeatedly gasped and snorted, was the longest lasting execution in Ohio since the state's resumption of the death penalty in 1999.

The prolonged execution of Dennis McGuire has stirred controversy [JURIST report] over new drugs used to administer lethal injections. Earlier this month McGuire's attorneys filed for a stay of execution [JURIST report], claiming that the untried execution method would cause McGuire to experience a suffocation-like syndrome known as air hunger. The court refused to halt the execution [JURIST report], finding that the evidence presented failed to prove a substantial risk of severe pain. Several states that employ capital punishment have been seeking alternative lethal injection compounds after the EU barred [JURIST report] German and Danish drugmakers from selling sodium thiopental, a commonly used lethal injection compounds, to US prisons in 2011. In July the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FDA policy that allowed the importation of the compound was illegal [JURIST report].

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