LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Ohio made history in September when an execution was botched so badly the governor called it off. The state made history again Tuesday, executing an inmate with just one drug for the first time in the United States.
Kenneth Biros, 51, was pronounced dead shortly after one dose of sodium thiopental began flowing into his veins at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The U.S. Supreme Court had rejected his final appeal two hours earlier.
Experts had predicted that sodium thiopental — used in many parts of the world to put pets down — would take longer to kill than the previous method. But the 10 minutes it took Biros to die was about as long as it has taken other inmates in Ohio and elsewhere to succumb to a three-drug combination.
The mother, sister and brother of Biros' victim, Tami Engstrom, applauded as the warden announced the time of death.
"Rock on," Debi Heiss, Engstrom's sister, said a moment earlier as the curtains were drawn for the coroner to check on Biros. "That was too easy."
Biros' executioners struggled for several minutes to find suitable veins, inserting needles repeatedly in both arms before completing the process on just his left arm. He winced once, and his attorney, John Parker, said he was concerned by all the needle sticks. But prison officials declared nothing amiss.
Critics of the three-drug method have long argued that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution because it can subject the condemned to extreme pain while leaving them immobile and unable to cry out.