Convicted murderer gets stay of execution for possible organ donation

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(CNN) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich granted a convicted killer a stay of execution on Wednesday to allow medical experts time to assess whether his nonvital organs or tissues can be donated to his family members or others.

Ronald Phillips was scheduled to die via injection on Thursday for murdering and raping his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993.

“Ronald Phillips committed a heinous crime for which he will face the death penalty. 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,” according to a statement released by Kasich’s office.

Phillips’ execution was rescheduled for July 2, 2014, the governor said. It is not clear when the medical experts will be able to access his case.

In a letter written by his attorney, Phillips requested Monday that his heart be given to his sister, who has an unspecified heart condition, and that one or both of his kidneys go to his mother, who is “suffering from kidney disease and on dialysis.”

The letter also states: “But, even if his specific suggestions as to recipients cannot be honored, he is nonetheless willing to do whatever is necessary to enable as many people as possible to benefit from his death.”

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction originally denied Phillips’ Tuesday request for pre-execution donation, citing the late hour in which the request was made, just 48 hours before his scheduled execution. The department had also denied post-execution donation.

Stephen Gray, an attorney for the department, wrote, “Although DRC recognizes that organ donation is a laudable goal, DRC is not equipped to facilitate organ donation for Mr. Phillips. DRC respectfully declines your request for post-execution organ donation. DRC considers organ donation to be a private matter between Mr. Phillips, his family and his attorneys.”

Phillips is not the first death row inmate to request organ donation. Before Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on the state’s death penalty in 2011, Christian Longo, who was on death row, sought to donate his organs. The Supreme Court of Oregon upheld the governor’s moratorium in June, consequently sparing Longo’s life.

By Graham Winch

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