The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati, recently affirmed a decision of a lower court that Ohio’s lethal injection method is constitutional. The decision is based on two death row inmates, Alva Campbell and Raymond Tibbetts, who challenged the constitutionality of Ohio’s lethal injection method, which involves using midazolam. The challengers argued that the use of midazolam as part of the three drug lethal injection protocol causes undue pain and suffering. The Ohio Constitution states that if a prescribed method of execution causes undue pain and suffering, than a different method of execution shall be used. Midazolam is a sedative that is often used by doctors in small doses on patients before surgery. The drug does not actually put you to sleep, but does make you feel very lethargic and often does not allow one to remember anything going on while the drug is in effect. Prior to surgery, it is common to be given a small dose of midazolam first, and then an anesthetic after.
In making its ruling, The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, used a two part test to determine if Ohio’s lethal injection method is constitutional. The test requires the defendants to show: 1) “that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol presents a risk that is sure or very likely to cause serious pain and needless suffering” and 2) “that an alternative method of execution is available, feasible, and can be readily implemented.”
The court held that defendants did not meet their burden of proof on demonstrating that Ohio’s method of lethal execution in unconstitutional. On part one of the test, the court held the defendants could only speculate and did not produce any scientific evidence that the use of midazolam would cause serious pain and needless suffering. In regards to part two, the court held that the defendants were unable to show that any alternative method of execution was available, feasible, and could be readily implemented.