Ohio executed an inmate with a single drug previously used to euthanize animals, the first execution of its kind in the U.S. and a potentially pivotal development in the emotional battle over capital punishment, reports the Washington Post. Johnnie Baston, 37, got an infusion of the powerful barbituate pentobarbital.
Capital punishment was thrown into disarray in January when the only U.S. company that makes sodium thiopental, which Ohio and other states had long used with two other drugs for lethal injection, said it would no longer produce the drug. Opponents and supporters of the death penalty predicted that other states would follow Ohio and adopt the new one-drug approach, alleviating delays in executions in the short-term but potentially leading to legal challenges that could mire the system in the long term. Some capital punishment opponents condemned the new protocol, saying too little is known about how pentobarbital works for this purpose in people. “Ohio is gambling blindly in its rush to execute,” said law Prof. Deborah Denno of Fordham University. “There is no reason why Ohio cannot take the time to devise a constitutionally acceptable execution procedure in the way so many experts have recommended.”