Ohio halts executions until 2017

A growing number of death row inmates are now filing complaints saying that certain lethal drugs could cause inmates to suffer cruel and inhumane punishment, barred under the US Constitution (AFP Photo/Caroline Groussain)

Washington (AFP) - Ohio delayed the scheduled executions of a dozen death row inmates until 2017 due to challenges in obtaining the necessary lethal drugs.

The midwestern state's next execution is now set for January 2017, starting with Ronald Phillips, convicted for the 1993 rape and beating death of his girlfriend's three-year-old daughter.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction "continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions, but over the past few years it has become exceedingly difficult to secure those drugs because of severe supply and distribution restrictions," it said in a statement.

"The new dates are designed to provide DRC additional time necessary to secure the required execution drugs."

The decision comes amid controversy over lethal injections in the United States, with incidents of overdoses, intolerance or mistakes in preparing the drugs.

At the same time, prison authorities are facing a shortage of lethal drugs, as pharmaceutical companies -- most of them European -- refuse to provide the ingredients for the deadly cocktail administered to inmates.

A county judge halted the scheduled executions of eight inmates in Arkansas earlier this month, preventing what would have been the state's first lethal injections in a decade.

A few days before, an Oklahoma court indefinitely stayed the upcoming executions of three men while officials in the US state investigate problems with its lethal injection drug protocols.

Last year, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett took 40 minutes to die due to a botched injection, bringing new attention to execution methods.

A growing number of death row inmates are now filing complaints saying that certain lethal drugs could cause inmates to suffer cruel and inhumane punishment, barred under the US Constitution.

An autopsy report made public earlier this month revealed that Oklahoma had executed an inmate in January using the wrong drug.