Ohio on Wednesday executed its first prisoner by lethal injection after more than three years of delays.
Ronald Phillips — sentenced to death for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s daughter — was executed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said the procedure lasted 12 minutes, without complications, and the time of death was 10:43 a.m.
Phillips expressed remorse for his “evil actions” in his final statement, released by the corrections department. “Sheila Marie did not deserve what I did to her. I know she is with the Lord and she suffers no more. I’m sorry to each and every one of you that you lived with this pain all those years,” he said.
The Supreme Court denied a last-ditch appeal from Phillips and two other death row inmates late Tuesday.
The procedure used a three-drug combination that included the controversial drug midazolam, a sedative that critics say isn’t capable of inducing unconsciousness or relieving pain.
Executions in Ohio were put on hold after the last one in January 2014 over concerns about midazolam, which was used in combination with the painkiller hydromorphone.
Inmate Dennis McGuire — sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of a pregnant woman — reportedly gasped and seized for 15 minutes before being pronounced dead after the 26-minute procedure.
McGuire’s family sued the state and a drug company claiming he was the victim of cruel and unusual punishment, and the state eventually dropped the two-drug combination used to execute him.
The Supreme Court previously ruled for the use of midazolam in a landmark 2015 case out of Oklahoma.
The drug was also used in problematic executions in Arkansas and Arizona. Federal defense lawyers likened the drug to burning inmates at the stake.
Phillips evaded execution until now because of legal controversy and difficulty obtaining new drugs.
In November 2013, Gov. John Kasich granted Phillips a temporary stay of execution so medical experts could assess whether his organs could be donated to his mother, according to the state corrections department.
After McGuire’s botched execution the following year, Kasich delayed all scheduled executions, including Phillips’, until January 2017.
Ohio has three more executions scheduled for this year and a total of 26 more planned through 2021. Ohioans to Stop Execution, a coalition against the death penalty, delivered a letter signed by more than 27,000 citizens last week urging Kasich not to resume executions.
“What Ohio has done has maintained the status quo by executing Mr. Phillips today,” said Kevin Werner, executive director of the coalition. “Ohio is positioning itself as the death penalty capital of the United States, and that doesn’t bode well for businesses or for the people.”