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Ohio governor delays 2 executions to review injection issues

Other case halted when technicians couldn’t insert IV

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Associated Press / October 6, 2009

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Governor Ted Strickland yesterday delayed the state’s next two executions to allow a full review of lethal injection procedures, the latest in a series of unprecedented capital punishment developments in Ohio.

Strickland ordered the reprieves for condemned inmates Lawrence Reynolds, scheduled to be executed Thursday, and Darryl Durr, scheduled to die next month, in the midst of a legal battle over Reynolds’s execution.

Reynolds’s execution was delayed until March 9, Durr’s until April 20. Strickland said the Ohio corrections department needed more time to finish updating protocols for dealing with long delays in finding suitable veins on inmates.

The surprise announcement yesterday came as the US Supreme Court weighed whether to allow Reynolds’s execution, for strangling his 67-year-old neighbor in 1994, to proceed. Earlier yesterday, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had delayed the execution, citing problems with the planned Sept. 15 execution of Romell Broom.

Strickland stopped Broom’s injection after executioners were unable to find a vein after two hours.

Until it was halted, the execution had taken the longest in Ohio to date, and Strickland’s order to stop it was unprecedented nationally since the country resumed executions in the 1970s.

Ohio has put 32 people to death since 1999, when executions resumed there.

Strickland said prison staff have been researching backup or alternative procedures for lethal injection since Sept. 15 that would comply with Ohio law.

“Although they have made substantial progress in this regard, more research and evaluation . . . [are] necessary before one or more can be selected,’’ Strickland said.

The backup procedure will also require training and other preparation, Strickland said.

Death penalty specialists say it could be months before it is clear what effect Broom’s case could have on executions elsewhere.

Texas executed two people immediately after Broom’s execution was stopped. Virginia is preparing to put Washington-area sniper John Allen Muhammad to death next month.

Jon Sheldon, Muhammad’s attorney, said he had no plans to raise an injection issue as part of an upcoming appeal. He said it is difficult to challenge the constitutionality of injection in Virginia because the state keeps many details of its process secret.

Virginia and Texas, unlike Ohio, does not permit witnesses to view the insertion of the IV. Broom’s execution is on hold while his attorneys prepare for a Nov. 30 federal court hearing. They argue that an unprecedented second execution attempt on Broom violates a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.