Ohio Killer Executed in First Use of Single-Drug Lethal Injection

Execution of Kenneth Biros with single drug was the first of its kind.

ByABC News
December 7, 2009, 12:18 PM

Dec. 8, 2009— -- The State of Ohio executed a convicted killer this morning using an untested method of lethal injection that no other state has ever employed.

Kenneth Biros was pronounced dead at 11:47 a.m. Tuesday, about 10 minutes after a lethal single-drug dose of an anesthetic was administered into his veins. The process had been expected to take as long as 30 minutes under the new technique.

The execution of Biros, who was convicted of killing and dismembering Tammy Engstrom in 1991, marks the first time a single drug has ever been used in an execution by lethal injection.

Before dying, Biros apologized for his crime and thanked his family for their support.

"Sorry from the bottom of my heart," he said. "My father, now I'm paroled to heaven. I will now spend all of my holidays with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Peace be with you all, amen."

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Biros' last-minute request for a stay of execution.

Attorneys for Biros had argued the state's new, untested method would be painful and unconstitutional. The single-drug procedure was implemented to end legal challenges to the widely-used three-drug protocol, which critics claim causes severe pain.

On Monday, a lower court judge also denied an appeal, saying that Biros had not demonstrated "at this juncture" that the new protocol is unconstitutional.

But U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost acknwoledged that "it does not foreclose the possibility that additional evidence will indeed prove that the problems with Ohio's policies and practice rise to a constitutional error."

Ohio has been plagued with problems administering lethal injection.

Earlier this fall, the state abandoned its standard three drug protocol after nurses and a doctor were unable to execute inmate Romell Broom after 18 puncture attempts.

Broom became the first inmate in history to walk away from a planned lethal injection execution and he is now arguing that the state can't attempt to kill him a second time.

After an examination of Broom's botched execution, state officials decided to change protocol in November adopting the use of one drug -- a massive overdose of an anesthetic called sodium thiopental -- for its new injection standard.

Of the 36 states, and the federal government, that use lethal injection, most use the same method that Ohio has now abandoned: a three-drug combination of sodium pentathol, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The latter two drugs serve to paralyze the inmate and then stop his heart.

In changing its protocol Ohio also established a "back up procedure" in the event that officials are unable to find an appropriate vein for the intravenous injection of the drugs. The back-up plan involved injecting the chemical directly into muscle instead of the bloodstream.

Terry J. Collins, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, authorized the direct injection of a sedative, midazolam, and an opiate, hydromoprhone, into muscle tissue to carry out the execution.