COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A prison doctor couldn’t find veins in the arms of an Ohio death row inmate during a pre-execution check-up, the inmate said Friday by video in rare court testimony as he challenges the state’s new, never-tried lethal-injection method.
Condemned child killer Ronald Phillips said the doctor could find only a vein on his right hand following an examination on October 18 at the medical centre at Chillicothe Correctional Institution, south of Columbus.
“I guess the Lord hid my veins from them,” Phillips said.
Phillips testified as part of a lawsuit brought by his attorneys to delay his execution while they gather evidence against the state’s new execution policy, which includes a two-drug injection process.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced the new policy last month and said Monday it would use that process, which involves the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.
Phillips’ attorneys say the department’s announcements came too close to the execution date to allow a meaningful challenge. The state says nothing is substantially different about the new system.
Phillips, 40, testified under questioning by his attorneys that the doctor said he wasn’t part of the state’s lethal-injection process when asked to do the checks. A prison nurse also participated.
Phillips said he had a fear of needles dating from childhood when his parents would sell drugs and let addicts shoot up in their kitchen in a tough neighbourhood of Akron, Ohio.
He testified via video from the prison where death row is housed for more than an hour. He’s scheduled to die on November 14 for raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, Sheila Marie Evans, in 1993.
There are no recent examples of Ohio death row inmates testifying in person or by video in federal court cases.
Phillips’ attorneys are challenging the state’s new policy for the lethal drugs it will use.
The state’s first choice is a specialty dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital mixed by a compounding pharmacy. If that can’t be obtained, as in the case of Phillips’ execution, the state will use the two-drug method to put Phillips to death.
Phillips’ lawyers argue the two drugs could cause severe side effects, including painful vomiting.
Those drugs, already part of Ohio’s never-used backup method, have been repeatedly challenged, to no avail, the state said in a court filing Friday morning.
The drugs Ohio is proposing to use on Phillips will cause him to stop breathing within a few minutes, an anaesthesiologist said in a statement Thursday as part of a filing by the state in support of the new method.
Irreversible brain and heart damage will follow, and the inmate will die a few minutes later, said Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a University of Massachusetts anaesthesiologist.