COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Ohio has postponed the executions of seven death row inmates so it can procure an adequate supply of its new two-drug lethal injection protocol.
U.S. District Court Judge Gregory L. Frost ordered the stay of all executions scheduled to take place in 2015 after the state changed the drugs it uses in executions.
The change came after it took an extended amount of time for Dennis McGuire to die by lethal injection in 2014. The state used a new combination of drugs for his execution, midazolam and hydromorphone.
The state began using the combination drug after the European Union voted in 2011 to prohibit the sale of pentobarbital for use in executions.
McGuire gasped and choked during his 25-minute execution. It should have taken about 10 minutes. He was convicted for raping and killing 30-week pregnant Joy Stewart and for the death of her unborn child.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it needs the extra time to secure a supply of a new two-drug cocktail, pentobarbital and thiopental sodium before it can carry out any more executions. It said the four executions scheduled for 2016 remain unchanged.
The use of midazolam in lethal injections is at the heart of a case the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take up earlier this month. The court will rule on the constitutionality of using the sedative in executions in Oklahoma.
The drug came under fire there after the execution of Clayton Lockett, whose vein had "blown" during the execution so the drugs couldn't correctly enter his body. He was reportedly trying to speak and lifted his head after doctors had declared him unconscious.
Lockett died of a heart attack after having convulsions.
Lockett was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 19-year-old woman in 1999.
The Supreme Court stayed all executions in Oklahoma pending its ruling on the matter.