Ronald Phillips, age 43, has his third date with death. He is, now, scheduled for execution by lethal injection on July 26. On Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit gave the state of Ohio thumbs-up for its lethal injection protocol. The state can resume executing inmates on death row with a three-drug injection mixture. Phillips is slated to die for having raped and murdered his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, OH.

The court’s July 5 opinion – an 8-6 conservative-liberal split – overrides the preliminary injunction that was rendered in January by Judge Michael Merz.

As well, the decision reverses an April three-judge appellate panel determination that upheld the injunction.

Prior death injection drug cocktail stirred court challenges

Using midazolam in the recipe for delivering death led to the higher court’s decision-making and eventual opinion early this week. Judge Merz, in Dayton, opined that the drug, only one of three, poses the substantial risk of “serious harm.” In countering the lower court’s contention, Judge Raymond Kethledge penned the majority opinion for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He states that “some” risk of pain goes hand-in-hand with “any” execution protocol, regardless of how humane. He additionally noted that the anti-death penalty advocate-plaintiffs did not definitely meet the criterion whether the drug cocktail does or is “very likely” to cause serious pain.

Not since January 2014 has Ohio delivered death to condemned inmates on the state’s death row. The last to die when the death sentence was carried out was Dennis McGuire. Witnesses alleged that McGuire snorted, gasped, and seemed to make snorting sounds when the midazolam cocktail was administered.

The effect of McGuire’s execution reportedly going haywire led to a legal challenge presented on Phillips’ behalf, as well as for death row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte.

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In response, the state ceased performing executions, like McGuire’s, that were administered with a previously “unused” drug cocktail protocol.

Ohio introduced new lethal combo to overcome court setbacks

Not to be dissuaded from exacting the death sentence on the condemned, Ohio created a new drug recipe which it proposed in response to legal challenges.

The new and, it is hoped, improved protocol delivers a heart-stopping, paralytic combination: midazolam along with potassium chloride.

With the higher court’s ruling this week, Ohio is going over its mandated checklist in preparation for Phillips’ upcoming death date. While the state declined to release checklist documents to The Associated Press, it did verify that the state is compliant with all the required steps for the execution protocol.

Target for execution uses age appealing for mercy

July 26 will mark Phillips’ third time in 2017 that he received an appointment with the death chamber. He received previous reprieves while legal arguments central to the injection protocol were decided In the lower courts.

Most probably, attorneys will appeal Wednesday’s court opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court for its determination that will affect life or death in Ohio for Phillips, Tibbetts, and Otte. Apart from the additional duo of death row inmates, Phillips has an appeal pending that draws his age into the picture for the court to consider.

Though now age 43, he endeavors to have his age at the time of his crime weighed on whether his life should be spared. His appeal states that he should be a candidate for mercy since he was 19-years-old when he murdered his, then, girlfriend’s toddler. Previously, the nation’s highest court has banned executions of people under age 18.

Ohio’s Depart of Rehabilitation and Correction is steadfast in its resolve to carry out court-mandated executions in a “dignified manner,” according to its spokeswoman.