COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- One of the public defenders for executed inmate Dennis McGuire was temporarily suspended last week over allegations that he told McGuire to fake suffocation during the execution. A correctional officer claims he overheard McGuire tell a family member about it.
An incident report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said that McGuire told his ex-wife that his attorney had instructed him to act like he was struggling to breathe when he began to feel the chemicals in his body. “When I begin to gasp for air I will have my thumb in the air per my attorney,” McGuire said, according to the report.
McGuire also allegedly said that he would put on a real show if it weren't for his daughter being there to witness the execution.
During the execution, media witnesses said that McGuire did give a thumbs up early in the process.
"OPD attorneys who represented Mr. McGuire did have a conversation with their client about the details of the execution protocol and the expected physical effects of the new lethal injection drugs. This is a conversation that OPD attorneys have with each client who is about to be executed. Because of ongoing federal litigation over Ohio’s execution protocol, an OPD attorney who witnesses an execution carefully records everything that happens. OPD attorneys had asked Mr. McGuire to give a thumbs-up with his left hand, once the execution began, so that the OPD attorney witnessing the execution would know when Mr. McGuire lost consciousness," said Ohio Public Defender's Office spokesperson Amy Borror.
In a memo to staff at the Ohio Public Defender's Office hours after the execution, Director Tim Young said he had pulled all OPD staff off the case while the allegations were investigated.
A second memo from Young, sent on Thursday, said that the investigation turned up no wrongdoing by any attorney in the office. He also asks staffers not to talk about the situation with reporters and direct all questions to their public information officer.
Attorney Rob Lowe, who was on paid leave during the investigation, returned to work on Monday.
Young’s initial memo, sent about six hours after McGuire’s execution, said he had been contacted by Gov. John Kasich’s legal counsel with information that “a correctional officer overheard Mr. McGuire tell family members that an OPD attorney had encouraged him to feign suffocation when the lethal injection drugs were first administered.”
McGuire was executed for the 1989 murder of Joy Stewart, 22, in Preble County. Stewart had just been married and was 8 months pregnant when McGuire raped her and killed her. He body was found by hikers after it had been dumped in a wooded area near Eaton, Ohio.