Judge delays Ohio execution, criticizes process

Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:31pm EST

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(Reuters) - A federal judge stayed the scheduled Ohio execution of convicted killer Charles Lorraine on Wednesday, ruling the state failed to follow agreed-on reforms for applying the death penalty.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost granted Lorraine, 45, a temporary delay in the execution scheduled for January 18, citing the state's failure to follow through on changes it has made to its execution process after nearly eight years of inmate challenges.

"This is frustrating to the court because no judge is a micro-manager of executions and no judge wants to find himself mired in ongoing litigation in which he must continually babysit the parties," Frost wrote in a 23-page ruling.

Lorraine was sentenced to death for the stabbing murders of Raymond and Doris Montgomery at their Warren, Ohio, home in 1986, after which diamonds, a small amount of cash and their car were taken.

Ohio officials planned an appeal of Frost's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Notices were filed with the federal court and the appeals court.

"We believe that DRC performs executions in a constitutional and humane manner and we will appeal," said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Ohio delayed executions for months last year while it prepared and adopted changes to the system that were prompted by Frost staying the execution of inmate Kenneth Smith in July and criticizing the state for paying "lip-service" to its own rules.

Governor John Kasich granted stays of execution in August and September, citing the judge's ruling. He also commuted the sentence of another death row inmate to life without the possibility of parole.

In November, Frost backed new Ohio death penalty practices adopted to alleviate concerns over the inconsistent application of its procedures and allowed the state to execute Reginald Brooks, 66, who had killed his sons.

Frost said on Wednesday, however, that Ohio had ignored parts of its own procedures in the Brooks execution and could not proceed to execute Lorraine under its current approach.

A review of the Brooks execution found deviations from set procedures in announcing each drug as it was injected, in documenting the drugs used by name, expiration date and lot, and in reviewing Brooks' medical chart before his execution.

"Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," Frost wrote.

Ohio executed five men in 2011, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and Lorraine's was to be the first execution in Ohio this year.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Daniel Trotta)

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