A death chamber at the Southern Ohio Corrections Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

3 death-row inmates challenging Ohio plan in Dayton courtroom

Ohio execution team member describes ‘consciousness checks’

The paramedic and team member whose job is to deliver the drugs to execute Ohio death-row inmate Ronald Phillips next month testified how he will determine consciousness after the first of three drugs is administered.

Identified only as Team Member No. 21 and speaking behind a cardboard barrier during the preliminary injunction hearing in Dayton’s U.S. District Court, he said, “I don’t want him to feel anything.”

RELATED: Official ‘wondered what was going on’ during McGuire execution

Attorneys for Phillips and two other death-row inmates are challenging Ohio’s proposed new three-drug execution protocol. The first execution with the new process is scheduled for Feb. 15. Phillips was convicted of the 1993 rape and death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

RELATED: Warden: McGuire execution went ‘very well’

The paramedic with more than 35 years’ experience testified that he will touch the corner of Phillips’ eye and squeeze a finger nail to check for “purposeful action.”

Team Member No. 21 testified that if he saw the same movements that he saw Dennis McGuire exhibit during McGuire’s January 2014 execution — gasping, heaving, deep sighs and snorts — he would not consider those purposeful actions and would continue the execution.

Contrary to other witnesses of McGuire’s execution, the paramedic said he “just cannot remember” seeing McGuire’s fists clench and un-clench. Asked if he wants to believe that McGuire did not suffer, the paramedic said, “Yes.”

The paramedic testified that the other consciousness checks available to the team include verbal communication, an ear lobe pinch, a sternum rub and a trapezius squeeze.

Team Member No. 21 said that if he does see purposeful action after the first drug is administered, a second dose of the first drug would be given.

After that, the paramedic said if purposeful action was seen, the medical team, the warden and the director would discuss what steps to take. The paramedic said there has not yet been a conclusion reached as to what would happen next.

The man testified that protocol options include waiting, doing another assessment to check the IV lines and conferring with the rest of the execution team.

Other witnesses Wednesday afternoon included Dr. Sergio Bergese and Craig W. Stevens, PhD., pharmacologist and co-author of the book, “Pharmacology.”

The hearing is scheduled to continue this morning and stretch into early next week.

Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.