Drug issue prompts governor to delay execution in Warren County case

The execution of a death-row inmate originally sentenced to die more than 20 years ago in Warren County has been delayed again.

Gov. Mike DeWine issued reprieves Wednesday for inmates James G. Hanna, 65, and Kareem M. Jackson, 45.

“Governor DeWine is issuing these reprieves due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans,” according to a press release announcing the reprieves.

In 1998, Hanna was originally sentenced to die for murdering cellmate, Peter Copas, 43.

Hanna drove a sharpened paintbrush through Copas’ eye and bludgeoned him with a sock containing a padlock in 1997 at Lebanon Correctional Institution.

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Copas died nearly three weeks later.

Hanna was in the prison outside Lebanon, serving a life sentence for the 1977 stabbing death of a Toledo convenience store clerk. He bragged of the killing in a letter to another inmate.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell was not surprised by the reprieve.

“Given Governor DeWine’s comments on this issue over the past few weeks, it was expected,” Fornshell said Thursday after the reprieves were announced.

Hanna was the first person sentenced to death in Warren County since 1907. Since then, other Warren County defendants have been sentenced to death, including Austin Myers of Clayton.

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Myers, then 19, was the youngest person on Ohio’s Death Row when admitted to prison in October 2014.

Last week, DeWine told the Associated Press it was “highly unlikely” Hannah’s execution by lethal injection, the last scheduled in 2019 in Ohio, would be carried out because of problems with finding drugs used in the injections.

DeWine reiterated concerns that drug makers might cut off supplies of medications to state agencies if they learn any of their drugs were used for capital punishment.

DeWine also delayed executions because of concerns about the constitutionality of the first pharmaceutical used in Ohio’s three-drug method.

MORE: Warren County inmate facing death penalty in case of dead cellmate

That drug is the sedative midazolam (mih-DAY’-zoh-lam). It has been used in several problematic executions. Critics say it doesn’t render inmates deeply unconscious enough.

DeWine has issued reprieves for other reasons.

In September, DeWine issued a reprieve for Cleveland Jackson and rescheduled his execution from Nov. 13 to Jan. 13, 2021, after a disciplinary complaint was made public against the attorneys who represented Jackson.

Jackson was sentenced to die after being convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated murder in 2002 in Allen County.

As a result of Wednesday’s reprieves, Hanna’s execution was rescheduled from Dec. 11 to July 16, 2020.

The execution of Kareem Jackson, who was sentenced to die in 1998 for aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and felonious assault in Franklin County, was rescheduled from Jan. 16, 2020, to to Sept. 16, 2020.

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