An Ohio death row inmate will ask the Supreme Court to block his execution, after a divided appeals court upheld the state’s lethal injection protocol, the Columbus Dispatch reports. By an 8-6 vote, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned a 2-1 panel decision that had barred the state from using a three-drug protocol. The ruling means the state can proceed with the execution of Ronald Phillips on July 26. Phillips, 43, was sentenced to death for the 1993 beating, rape and murder of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter.
Phillips would be the first Ohioan to be put to death in 3 1/2 years. More than two-dozen executions are scheduled in the next three years. In the state’s last execution, Dennis McGuire struggled against his restraints, gasped for air, choked and coughed for 20 minutes before succumbing on Jan. 16, 2014. The state now plans to use a combination of midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Prisoners argue that the protocol “would cause them to suffer severe pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” in executions. The appeals court majority said some risk of pain ”‘is inherent in any method of execution — no matter how humane.” The dissent complained that the majority had not allowed a trial on the issue in a lower court.