March 7 (UPI) -- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday delayed the executions of three men on death row and asked corrections officials to review alternative methods of lethal injection after a federal judge compared the state's current process to waterboarding.
The order came after Magistrate Judge Michael Merz issued a reprieve of execution for Warren Henness in January. The judge said Ohio's three-drug protocol for lethal injection would likely cause Henness "severe pain and needless suffering."
Ohio was one of several states to alter the traditional drug protocol it used for decades in lethal injections after European drug companies refused to sell pentobarbital, commonly used in executions, over ethical concerns. The state began using midazolam, a sedative, in executions in 2017.
Critics say the drug does not render a person sufficiently unconscious to prevent them from feeling the pain caused by the other two drugs in the cocktail -- potassium chloride, and either vecuronium bromide, pancuronium bromide or rocuronium bromide. Merz pointed to Ohio's use of midazolam as problematic.
"We have good evidence that midazolam will cause the 'waterboarding' effects of pulmonary edema," Merz wrote. "If Ohio executes Warren Henness under its present protocol, it will almost certainly subject him to severe pain and needless suffering. Reading the plain language of the Eighth Amendment, that should be enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment."
Given the ruling, DeWine said he is delaying the executions of:
-- Cleveland Jackson from May 29 to Nov. 13
-- Kareem Jackson from July 10 to Jan. 16
-- Gregory Lott from Aug. 15 to March 12, 2020
He also directed the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to review the state's lethal injection protocol and possible alternatives.