COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is considering administering lethal drugs into inmates' bone marrow or muscles as an alternative to — or a backup for — the traditional intravenous execution procedure, a prisons department spokeswoman said Tuesday.
"Everything is on the table" as the state researches ways to adjust its death chamber procedure in the wake of a failed execution last month, when officials couldn't locate suitable veins on inmate Romell Broom, said Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman Julie Walburn.
Broom's execution is on hold at least until a federal court hearing takes place on Nov. 30. Gov. Ted Strickland issued reprieves for two other death-row inmates on Monday, saying that more time is needed to study the execution procedure.
The changes could include a different procedure to access veins, the use of a device to inject lethal chemicals directly into an inmate's bone marrow, or injection into muscles.
"We don't believe that this exam or the reprieve are a reflection of the skills and ability of our team," Walburn said. "This was a rare and exceptional circumstance, but we want to make sure we have a contingency plan if this were to reoccur."
Richard Dieter, director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said he isn't aware of any other states that have considered, or currently use, injections into bone marrow or muscle as part of their protocol.
Ohio's current procedure gives officials as much time as they need to locate suitable veins, but other states have procedures for dealing with inmates in such circumstances.
In Kentucky, the execution team can only try for one hour. Other states, including Florida, allow for a procedure in which the team cuts the skin to find a vein.
Ohio officials also are exploring whether to keep the state's three-drug regimen — a sedative, a paralyzing agent and a chemical to stop the heart — or to rely on a single drug, Walburn said. It could be used as a backup if officials encounter difficulty locating veins, or as a new procedure to replace the old one.
Officials were able to locate Broom's veins, but the veins collapsed when a saline solution was administered to test whether they could accept the flow of the lethal drugs. Broom later said he was stuck with a needle as many as 18 times, including painful sticks into his muscle and bone.
Officials have had difficulty locating suitable veins in at least two other executions.
Strickland stopped Broom's execution after two hours, an unprecedented order since the United States resumed executions in the 1970s. Ohio has put 32 people to death since 1999, when executions resumed in the state.