When the state of Ohio executed Dennis McGuire on Thursday, January 16, 2014, it took him 26 minutes to die. This is one of the longest executions in history. Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. The method used this time was a two-drug combination that had not been tried before in the U.S.
His attorney and family had gone to court to object the use of the untried drugs, citing the effects it has on the body and that it would amount to torture. There is also the question of whether justice should be given by repeating the actions of wrongdoers.
The effects of the drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, include a medical phenomenon called air hunger which has a person struggle to catch some breath while suffering untold agony and terror. This is exactly what happened to McGuire. He made loud snorting noises in the longest execution ever seen. He gasped repeatedly and opened his mouth during the execution. His lawyers and children say that it amounted to torture. McGuire was convicted of raping and killing a pregnant woman.
The longest execution before this as 22 minutes for Reginald brooks in 2011. Brooks received a lethal dose of something another drug. In the 53 executions that have happened in Ohio since 1999, most inmates take an average of 15 minutes to die. When Ohio was using a combination of three drugs, executions took about 10 minutes and none led to the kind of sounds that McGuire made.
The execution has led to cries of unusual and cruel punishment. Demands have been issued for a moratorium on executions in Ohio. The prison system is reviewing the execution and declined to comment on the amount of time it took McGuire to die. The drugs used previously are no longer available after the manufacturer declared it off limits for executions.
McGuire’s daughter said that it was the most horrible day of her life while his son felt that nobody deserved to go through such a process.