Authorities Probe if Executed Ohio Inmate Faked Agony, But Come Up Empty

Dennis McGuire's attorney cleared after allegations that he advised the inmate to exaggerate his pain during execution

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A lawyer for the Ohio inmate who appeared to suffer searing agony when executed this month has reportedly been cleared of wrongdoing after he a temporary suspension amid allegations that he advised his client to fake the pain.

Officials investigated reports from prison guards that suggested Robert Lowe, one of Dennis McGuire’s attorneys, told McGuire to exaggerate the pain during his execution with the hope of abolishing Ohio’s death penalty, the Associated Press reports. But the public defender’s office said Lowe came back to work Monday after its own review didn’t substantiate those charges. A spokeswoman for the office said interviews with eyewitnesses indicated McGuire was unconscious during the Jan. 16 execution, the AP reports: “We have no way of knowing, obviously, because we can’t interview Mr. McGuire.”

(MORE: Ohio’s grisly execution history)

The initial accusations against Lowe centered on what prison guards said McGuire told them, according to the AP and the Columbus Dispatch. “He wants me to put on this big show in front of my kids, all right when I’m dying!” McGuire allegedly told a guard. “I ain’t gonna do this. It’s about me and my kids, not him and his cause!”

The state gave McGuire an untested two-drug cocktail on Jan. 16 to execute him for raping and killing a pregnant woman in 1989. He reportedly gasped and heaved as if he were suffocating for 26 minutes, the longest execution in Ohio in over a decade. His family has sued Ohio—which remains the only state that failed in 2009 to kill an inmate with lethal injection—for torture and cruelty. McGuire’s seemingly painful death renewed discussion over execution methods, which have been in the spotlight ever since a maker of three drugs used in lethal injections, under pressure from death penalty opponents, stopped selling their products to states using them for executions.