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Ohio delays child killer Ronald Phillips' execution to study organ donation

Ronald Phillips, death-row prisoner in Ohio, is challenging changes to the state's execution protocol.
Ronald Phillips, death-row prisoner in Ohio, is challenging changes to the state's execution protocol.Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation via AP

The governor of Ohio has delayed the execution of convicted child killer and rapist so he can study the prisoner's last-minute request to donate his organs.

Ronald Phillips was due to receive a lethal injection — an untested two-drug cocktail — on Thursday. His execution date was rescheduled on Wednesday evening for July 2.

He asked Monday to be allowed to donate his organs to sick relatives or a member of the public, but state correction officials quickly turned him down, saying it was logistically impossible.

Now Gov. John Kasich says he wants to explore the feasibility of organ donation by Phillips and other condemned prisoners.

"I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen," Kasich said in a statement.

Phillips' lawyer, Tim Sweeney, said he was on his way to see his client Wednesday evening and did not want to make a statement until he spoke with him.

The 40-year-old Phillips was convicted of raping and beating to death his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993.

His scheduled execution drew national attention after Ohio said it planned to use a new combination of drugs for the lethal injection: the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.

Ohio and other states have had to tinker with their execution protocols because the commonly used drug pentobarbital is in short supply after the manufacturer banned its sale to prisons for executions.

At a Nov. 1 hearing to decide whether the new drugs could be used, Phillips told a judge via video hookup that he had a lifelong fear of needles and that prison doctors couldn't find veins in his arm during a checkup two weeks earlier.

"I guess the Lord hid my veins from them," Phillips said.

The court last week declined to block the new execution method and hours later, Kasich denied a request for executive clemency.