A legal tug-of-war over Ohio’s execution procedures grew more confused Monday as Ohio’s governor granted a temporary reprieve to a murderer scheduled for lethal injection this week.
The action came just hours after the state’s attorney general’s office asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and allow Thursday’s execution of Lawrence Reynolds Jr. after a federal appeals court blocked it. Gov. Ted Strickland announced he would delay Reynolds’s execution until next March at the earliest. Reynolds was sentenced to die for beating and strangling Loretta Mae Foster, his 67-year-old neighbor, during a robbery in suburban Cleveland. The flurry of activity came after a failed attempt to execute another death row inmate raised serious questions about the state’s lethal injection procedures. “Additional time is needed to fully conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of an alternative or backup lethal injection protocol that is in accordance with Ohio law,” Strickland said in his announcement. Darryl Durr, a death row inmate scheduled to be put to death in coming weeks, also was given a reprieve until at least April 2010.
Execution problems prompt reprieve for inmate
The state was expected to ask the Supreme Court for dismissal of the pending appeal. No explanation was offered as to why Ohio’s executive branch switched its position. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati blocked Reynolds’ execution Monday, citing problems over accessing the veins of Romell Broom in a failed execution attempt last month. Strickland delayed Broom’s execution after technicians tried for two hours on September 15 to find suitable veins to insert the chemicals. That execution has not been rescheduled. Reynolds’ lawyers have argued the state’s lethal injection protocols violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Broom will get a hearing before a federal judge next month. His lawyers argue allowing a second execution attempt would be unconstitutional. Judges on the appeals court were at odds over the Reynolds appeal. “Given the important constitutional and humanitarian issues at stake in all death penalty cases, these problems in the Ohio lethal injection protocol are certainly worthy of meaningful consideration,” wrote Judge Boyce Martin. Judge Jeffrey Sutton dissented. “Why assume an execution protocol is unconstitutional when one of the humane features of the protocol — that the state will not continue trying to access a usable vein beyond a sensible time limit — is being followed”