Ohio schedules execution, despite lacking drugs

Posted at 7:06 PM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 19:06:40-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday set an execution date for a condemned killer over the objection of two justices who question establishing dates when the state doesn't have any lethal drugs.

The court ruled 5-2 to schedule James Frazier's execution for Oct. 17, 2019. He was sentenced to death for the 2004 slaying of a woman in a Toledo apartment building where both lived.

The decision means Ohio now has 26 death row inmates with firm execution dates beginning early next year at a time when the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction still can't find drugs to put them to death with.

Ohio last executed a prisoner in January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted over 26 minutes during the administration of a never-tried two-drug combo the state later abandoned.

The prisons agency changed its policies to allow for single doses of two alternative drugs, neither of which is available in the United States after their manufacturers put them off-limits for executions. The state has unsuccessfully tried to find compounded or specially mixed versions. A message seeking comment was left with the prisons agency.

Last year, Gov. John Kasich, a Republican running for president, ruled out looking for alternative methods, such as the firing squad or hanging.

In a dissent to Friday's ruling, Justice Paul Pfeifer said the state is currently incapable of properly executing the 25 inmates with already scheduled dates.

"It serves no rational purpose for this court to continue to set execution dates while significant logistical obstacles remain in place and more legal challenges are likely," Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer, a Republican, helped write the state's current capital punishment law as a state senator in 1981 but has since disavowed it and said Ohio should abolish the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

Justice William O'Neill, a Democrat who regularly dissents in capital punishment cases, joined in Pfeifer's opinion.

Authorities say Frazier, 75, entered the apartment of 49-year-old Mary Stevenson on March 2, 2004, strangled her, cut her throat and fled with two of her purses.

Frazier's attorney declined to comment because of his involvement in an ongoing lawsuit challenging lethal injection in Ohio.