Columbus — Gov. John Kasich has a decision to make in the relatively near future, and it probably won’t be an easy one.
Because in a few months, Ohio is supposed to restart lethal injections down at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
And as far as we know, prison officials don’t have a supplier for the drugs used in the process.
I say “as far as we know,” because trying to get any information about lethal injection drugs from the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is like shouting into a hole.
Ask a straightforward question like, “Do you have any lethal injection drugs?” and you’ll get crickets in response.
The only thing a prison spokeswoman will offer is, “DRC continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions. This process has included multiple options.”
Clear as mud, right?
There are more than two dozen men who have execution dates scheduled from January 2017 through September 2020.
There have been no executions since January 2014.
While there have been questions about the process — Dennis McGuire’s prolonged execution prompted ample debate on how Ohio handles executions — much of the discussion has focused on where to obtain the drugs used in lethal injections, after manufacturers forbade their use in putting people to death.
State law was changed to allow so-called compounding pharmacies to provide supplies without having to disclose their names to the public. But, again, as far as we know, the state hasn’t found any pharmacies willing to provide the product.
The same legislation that covered compounding pharmacies created a legislative study committee to consider Ohio’s death penalty policies. One of the topics of discussion for that group was whether Ohio should move to a different method of execution.
There’s chatter about that, but that’s all it’s been to date. There’s no on-the-move legislation to switch to hanging or nitrogen or the electric chair or any other method.
Lawmakers won’t get back to business until after the election, meaning they’re not likely to act on such issues until weeks before Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die.
Phillips, who was convicted in the 1993 rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl in Akron, has already had his date postponed several times — notably, Kasich offered a temporary reprieve to allow Phillips time to determine whether he could donate some of his organs to family members.
DRC denied the request after a couple of months, noting that Phillips hadn’t moved quickly enough to allow the donation process to proceed. In retrospect, he probably could have donated organs by now, more than two years after the fact, but I digress.
There are more than 140 people on Ohio’s Death Row. Most are hoping their executions won’t be carried out.
There are more than 140 victims of their crimes, and many, many other friends and family members left behind who are waiting for justice to be served. Some have waited decades.
That puts the ball back in Kasich’s court.
And, so, the bigger question remains: Will Ohio ever execute another Death Row inmate?
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.