Ohio looks to future executions with a new drug

Posted at: 09/26/2013 1:05 AM
By JULIE CARR SMYTH

(AP) LUCASVILLE, Ohio - Ohio is looking to the future of its execution procedure after the lethal injection of a killer whose death exhausted the state’s last unexpired dose of its execution drug, the powerful sedative pentobarbital.

Harry Mitts Jr., 61, was executed Wednesday at the state prison in Lucasville. The white gunman spewed racial slurs before fatally shooting a black man and a police officer in a 1994 rampage that prosecutors called one of Ohio’s worst crimes.

Prisons director Gary Mohr said the state is on track to tell a court by Oct. 4 how its executions will proceed now that its drug supply has expired.

"We are looking at whether we need to change the protocol or not, quite frankly," he told reporters at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

A prisons agency lawyer said earlier this year legislation may be needed to protect specialty pharmacies that might mix supplies of execution drugs from sanctions like losing their state accreditation. So-called compounding pharmacies mix specific doses of drugs for patients.

When asked Wednesday if Ohio will have to choose a different drug whether or not it changes its execution rules, Mohr said "not necessarily." He declined to elaborate.

Before the drug began to flow, Mitts asked the families of his victims _ John Bryant and Garfield Heights police Sgt. Dennis Glivar _ to forgive him and not to hold hatred for him in their hearts.

Glivar’s widow, Debbie, wept as Mitts said from a prison gurney that he’d carried the burden of his crimes with him for 19 years. "I had no business doing what I did," he said. She said afterward, "I won’t forgive him, ever."

Mitts was pronounced dead at 10:39 a.m., after a slight delay in the start of the procedure as a member of the execution team had difficulty finding a vein. He made snoring noises after appearing to lose consciousness.

Mitts was convicted of aggravated murder and attempted murder in the August 1994 rampage against random neighbors and responding police officers at his apartment complex in a Cleveland suburb.

Besides Bryant and Glivar, he shot two others _ both police officers _ that day. One was Thomas Kaiser, Glivar’s partner and a witness to Wednesday’s execution.

Kaiser said Mitts’ death did little to blunt the damage the lengthy case has caused.

"I don’t believe justice has been served," he said. "Justice should not take 19 years for a case that had nothing _ there was no ineffective counsel, there was no chance there was another suspect, none of the normal defenses that you hear."

Mitts had told the Ohio Parole Board _ which, along with Gov. John Kasich had rejected his pleas for mercy _ that he had drunk heavily because he was distraught over his divorce. He said he wasn’t a racist and didn’t remember directing slurs at Bryant before shooting him.

Bryant’s sister, Johnnal, said Wednesday that Mitts’ execution gave her at least some closure after 19 years _ but she can’t yet grant his wish to forgive a crime based on the color of her brother’s skin.

"No, I don’t forgive him," she said as she fought back tears. "Maybe one day I will, but right now I don’t."

Mitts had long said he found God in prison. After his conviction, he spoke of receiving a Bible from Glivar’s mother, Helen, and sister, and said that the two had succeeded in getting him to seek repentance.

Helen Glivar sat quietly during the execution and declined to step to a podium afterward to address reporters.

Asked afterward if she had anything to say about her son’s murder and his killer’s death, she said only: "It is finished."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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