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OUR VIEW: An execution is not a license for torture

Agonizing death at hands of state of ohio prompts questions

Published: January 18, 2014 11:14 PM

Dennis McGuire, who raped and murdered a pregnant newlywed 25 years ago, went to his death gasping, snorting and struggling to breathe. It took him 26 minutes to die at the hands of the State of Ohio.

McGuire’s prolonged execution — which took longer to complete than any other in the 15 years since Ohio resumed putting people to death — has drawn charges of cruel and unusual punishment. His family, who witnessed his final moments, plans to bring a federal lawsuit against the state.

“Nobody deserves to go through that,” said the dead man’s son and namesake, Dennis McGuire.

He’s right. Not even a killer convicted of a terrible crime.

While some may argue that McGuire’s horrible end — a spectacle witnessed by his adult children — is a fitting punishment for the crime that landed him in the death chamber, death by lethal injection is supposed to be relatively painless. Capital punishment remains on the books in Ohio, but state-sanctioned killing is not a license to torture.

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Most Ohio inmates executed since 1999 have taken 15 minutes or less to die, records show. Some died in less than 10 minutes when the state used a three-drug combination. McGuire, 53, was given two drugs — a sedative and a painkiller — but the combination had never been used before in a U.S. execution. 

Alan Johnson, a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch who witnessed the execution on behalf of the Statehouse press corps, reported McGuire made a “series of rattling, gasping, choking ... sounds” shortly after the drugs entered his system. “There was a struggle, a life struggle, going on,” said Johnson, who has witnessed 18 other Ohioans being put to death. 

Amber McGuire, the dead man’s daughter, said she watched her father attempt to sit up from the gurney where he received the lethal injection. “I watched his stomach heave ... It appeared to me he was fighting for his life but suffocating.”

There is no humane way to put a human being to death. An execution, the taking of a human life by the state, is the most drastic, final punishment that a “civilized” society can impose. The death McGuire endured was a brutal one; a euthanized dog or cat meets an easier end. 

Dennis McGuire wasn’t a saint. He took a human life, brutally and willfully, and survived his victim by a quarter-century.  But the prolonged, agonizing death he met — a death sanctioned by the state of Ohio and paid for by the tax dollars of its citizens — was unnecessarily cruel and painful punishment. His ordeal can’t help but cause second thoughts about capital punishment. 

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whizzard Jan 20, 2014 8:44 AM

I have lost quite a bit of repsect for the Record Pub and the people in charge there for printing this opinion.  It shows they care more for the perpetrator than the victims and their families.

It does explain their depraved indifference they show in many of their articles.

They should be ashamed of themselves for taking this stance just to sell a paper.  Disgusting.

Martin Fleming

whizzard Jan 20, 2014 8:40 AM

So does this mean that the victims family can sue McGuires children for the family members death for the same reason and then collect for their pain and suffering?

His pain and suffering lasted 26 minutes.  The victims family has been enduring pain and suffering for 25 years and will not have an ending until the last family member who remembered her has passed.

Now who suffered longer?

Martin Fleming

whizzard Jan 20, 2014 8:37 AM

And besides Record Pub, execution for murder regardless of how long it takes can never be considered torture.

Went he took a life for pleasure, he lost all his human rights for it takes someone less than human to take a life for pleasure.

When we talk about cruel and unusual punishment, we are talking about those who do not who commit violent crimes against our fellow man or animal.  Those who commit such crimes, lose all human rights and considerations.

Martin Fleming


whizzard Jan 20, 2014 8:29 AM

I appreciated the description on how he died.  It gives us some hope that this man's execution will hopefully deter a would be murderer, rapist, molester or thief and let them know what to expect for what they may do.

Did they describe the agony and suffering of the victim?  No.  Did they describe the agony and suffering of the victims family? No.  But they do describe his suffering and his children suffering.

His children grew up with a father in prison.  They did not get the opportunity to bond with him as his victim had bonded with their family.  His children said no one should go through that type of torture.  Were they thinking of the victim and family  and how they were tortured?  Did they think about the victim's suffering as she went through the torture and taking of her life?  Does his children think about the pain, suffering and torture her family went through and are still going through.

Their disconnection to their father will allow  their sympathy for him to quickly fade, while the victims family is still suffering even after 25 years.

Yes we are civilized and that is why it is so important to show the criminals we will deliver vindication and closure for those families that are the victims of people like Dennis McGuire.  Showing sympathy for this man is the reason why so many are so ready to by a weapon and take matters into their own hand for the authorities fall way short of getting the job done.

Many of the victims family may have passed on in the past 25 years never gettting the chance to feel the vindication of their relatives murder.  They will never experience the full justice being served and how it was rightly served and executed.

His death was no where near being unecessary and was far from being the painful punishment he deserved.  His ordeal did fall short of being the death many would have desired for him.  He went way to fast.  He needed to suffer 5 times longer than his victim.  You do this and you will begin to deter the murderers, thieves, rapists and molesters.

My heart, compassion and sympathy to the victims family.

I was thinking of them and I want to say to them, I am sorry this man did not suffer more than he did.

Martin Fleming

TaggR Jan 19, 2014 9:25 AM

"Why won't the Record-Courier extend the same consideration to unborn children that it does to convicted murderers?"

Because it's not newsworthy and it doesn't sell newspapers. Anymore questions amt_?

lily67 Jan 19, 2014 8:44 AM

Does anyone care about the woman he murdered along with her unborn child.(talk about cruel & painful death) Unbelievable!! i hope he suffered greatly during his execution like his poor victims did 25 yrs ago

amt_ Jan 19, 2014 8:06 AM

Why won't the Record-Courier extend the same consideration to unborn children that it does to convicted murderers?


What If Fetuses Do Feel Pain?
Fetal Pain, Maternal Health, And The Supreme Court
By John C. Eastman
JANUARY 17, 2014

The Supreme Court has in recent years taken great pains to require that execution of criminals who have committed the most heinous of crimes be done as painlessly as possible.  In almost every State that continues to utilize the death penalty as the ultimate punishment, a dose of sodium pentathol is administered first, rendering the convict unconscious so that the actual death-inducing drugs in the common three-drug cocktail do not cause any pain.

No such drugs are administered to an unborn child before a late-term abortion, yet new scientific evidence is pointing to the very real possibility that a fetus feels pain perhaps as early as 16 or 18 weeks gestational age.  One need only read the Supreme Court's own descriptions of the common "skull-crushing" and "limb-ripping" procedures used beyond the first trimester to realize how horrific the pain must be, if this new scientific evidence proves true.

Other scientific evidence is demonstrating that the risk to maternal health increases exponentially with each passing week later in the pregnancy.

Confronted with this evidence, thirteen states have since 2010 passed laws restricting abortions after 20 weeks to those necessary to prevent death or serious health risks to the mother.  Although abortion advocates have claimed that these laws are "blatantly unconstitutional" because they apply to pre-viability abortions, they have deliberately not challenged the laws in federal circuit court jurisdictions thought likely to uphold the laws.  Nebraska's first-of-the-kind statute adopted in 2010 remains in effect, for example. Texas's statute, adopted over the much ballyhooed filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis in 2013, likewise remains in effect (the lawsuit brought against that law did not challenge the 20-week restriction).  As one news account noted with respect to the Texas litigation, there was "a strategic reason to avoid challenging that [20-week] ban.... [A] Texas challenge would go to the conservative Fifth Circuit. Not only would that court potentially uphold the law … , the combination of decisions would create a split in the circuits that would make the Supreme Court likelier to hear it."

But abortion advocates did challenge the 20-week restriction adopted by Arizona.  Arizona is in the Ninth Circuit, which leans decidedly the other direction from the Fifth and Eighth Circuits.  Although the federal trial court upheld the Arizona statute based on the undisputed evidence of fetal pain and increased maternal health risk, the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the statute was per se unconstitutional because it restricted abortion prior to fetal viability.  The Supreme Court itself had in 2007 upheld a partial birth abortion ban that admittedly restricted some pre-viability abortions, but the Ninth Circuit held that the viability line nevertheless remained sacrosanct. Arizona petitioned the Supreme Court for review, but its petition was denied on Monday of this week.

Why are these cases important, and why will the Supreme Court eventually have to confront the issues presented by them?  Well, the evidence that the risk to the health of the mother increases exponentially with every passing week for abortions late in the pregnancy should give pause to any but the most doctrinaire advocates of abortion on demand.  And the evidence that an unborn child in utero feels pain really gives lie to the claim, oft-repeated since Roe v. Wade was decided 41 years ago, that there is no child there, only tissue or a clump of cells.  The science is forcing our society to grapple with the fundamental immorality of abortion on demand that was unleashed by Roe and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton.

Today, the United States is one of only four nations in the world that allows for abortion on demand at any time during pregnancy.  We're in the company of those great paragons of moral virtue and human rights, North Korea and China.  But the States continue to press the issue because they recognize what the Supreme Court in Roe seems to have forgotten--government has a deep moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us.  One of the judges on the Ninth Circuit panel suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that perhaps the states should require that anesthetics be administered to an unborn child in the womb before an abortion can be performed on it.  Such a rule would at least allow the unborn child to escape the pain that the gruesome techniques of late-term abortion would otherwise inflict on him or her.  But it cannot anesthetize the rest of us to the gruesome tragedy of late-term abortion, at least not as long as there is any measure of human decency left among us.