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Appeals Court Rules Ohio's Execution Method Is Constitutional

In this November 2005 file photo, Larry Greene, public information director of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, demonstrates how a curtain is pulled between the death chamber and witness room at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio.
Kiichiro Sato
Associated Press

A federal appeals court says an execution set for next May can go forward, because the condemned killer didn’t prove his claim that the state’s three-drug execution method is unconstitutional. 

Attorneys for Wayne Keith Henness argued the mixture creates the sensation of waterboarding. But the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the potential for suffocation posed by the drugs does not qualify as the type of "severe pain and needless suffering" prohibited by the Constitution.

The ruling reverses a decision from a federal magistrate earlier this year, which had said the lethal injection method was “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Henness was sentenced to die for the 1992 fatal shooting of a volunteer addiction counselor. His execution was scheduled for May, but the next inmate on the schedule is Cleveland Jackson of Allen County, on November 13.

However, Gov. Mike DeWine said because of problems getting execution drugs, he can’t currently see a method that works under state law.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.