COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio said Friday it was denying a condemned child killer’s request to donate organs to his family members, saying he didn’t have enough time to undergo the surgery and recuperate for his summer execution.
Organ donation surgery would have to have been completed by this coming Sunday to give the death row inmate, Ronald Phillips, enough time to recover before the July 2 execution, but Phillips had not shown he was anywhere close that happening, according to letters from state prison officials to Phillips’ attorney.
The state “fully intends” to carry out Phillips’ execution, Stephen Gray, the prison system’s chief counsel, wrote to defense attorney Timothy Sweeney.
Sweeney declined to comment.
The state said Phillips is no different than any other inmate, meaning the state has an obligation to make sure he is healthy, despite the fact he will then be put to death.
“Anyone who’s undergone surgery, it’s humane to have time to heal,” said Ricky Seyfang, a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction warned Phillips about the Sunday deadline in a letter two months ago, according to documents released by the state.
“Only a little progress has been made by your client and his mother to move forward with this process,” Gray wrote. He said Phillips’ mother was to have attended a transplant educational session at Ohio State University’s medical center Jan. 21.
Even if she were placed on an approved waiting list, the process could take months, after which Phillips would need two to three months to recover, Gray said in a Jan. 24 letter.
Phillips, 40, was out of appeals in November when he made a last-minute request to donate the organs, including a kidney to his mother, who is on dialysis, and possibly his heart to his sister. The prison system rejected his request, but Gov. John Kasich delayed the execution until July 2 to give the state time to see whether it was possible to comply.
“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 at the time.
Phillips was sentenced to die for the rape and death of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, in Akron in 1993.
In January, Kasich denied a similar organ donation request by condemned inmate Dennis McGuire, saying McGuire couldn’t identify a family member who would receive his organs, as required under prison policy.
McGuire was put to death Jan. 16 during an execution that made international headlines after he made repeated snorting-like gasps during the 26 minutes it took him to die.
In 2010, Ohio death row inmate Lawrence Reynolds tried to commit suicide two days before his scheduled execution with an overdose of antidepressant drugs he had secretly stockpiled. He was executed by injection after a seven-day delay.
At the time, the state said it had a legal obligation to provide health care for Reynolds until the execution.
In 1995, Delaware death row inmate Steven Shelton was allowed to donate a kidney to his mother while in prison, though he was not facing imminent execution. Following successful appeals, his death sentence was reversed and he was resentenced to prison time in 2011.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .
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