Judge says fixes allow Ohio to resume executions

CLEVELAND Thu Apr 5, 2012 7:56pm EDT

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A federal judge who had blocked two previous executions has cleared the way for Ohio to put to death a condemned murderer, declaring the state had adequately fixed its procedures since one botched execution and problems carrying out two others.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost on Wednesday rejected a motion for a temporary restraining order for Mark Wiles, who is scheduled to be put to death April 18 for the murder of 15-year-old Mark Klima during a 1985 burglary.

Earlier this year, Frost had postponed two Ohio executions scheduled for January and February, accusing the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction of engaging in a "policy of sporadic adherence to the execution protocol that allows, if not endorses, institutional incompetence."

Frost said the state did not follow its own protocols in the failed execution of Romell Broom on September 15, 2009.

A doctor who was not a member of the execution team tried and failed repeatedly over two hours to locate a suitable vein to administer an intravenous drug meant to kill Broom.

Broom was sent back to death row and is appealing his sentence, arguing a second attempt to kill him amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and is therefore unconstitutional.

Ohio subsequently revised its policy to allow for the lethal injection to be administered into the inmate's muscle.

Previous problems with inmates' veins included an Ohio inmate who sat up to tell his executioners that the process was not working, and another where the procedure dragged on so long the inmate was granted a bathroom break. Both men were put to death.

Ohio authorities welcomed Frost's ruling, saying the state will change its command structure to ensure compliance with existing protocols, Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.

"This decision recognizes the hundreds of hours of training and preparation put in by the staff involved with this process," Smith said.

"This Court is therefore willing to trust Ohio, just enough to permit the scheduled execution," Frost wrote in his ruling.

Earlier this year, Frost stopped the planned executions of Charles Lorraine and Michael Webb, though they are likely to receive new execution dates.

If Wiles is executed it will be the first in Ohio since Reginald Brooks was put to death in November.

There are 147 inmates on death row in Ohio including one woman. Ohio has executed 46 people since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.

Some Ohio officials have called for abolishing the state's death penalty. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, who helped write Ohio's death penalty law 30 years ago, testified to lawmakers late last year about his wish to stop executions.

Connecticut's state senate passed a bill on Thursday to get rid of the death penalty, moving it one step closer to becoming the fifth U.S. state in five years to abandon capital punishment.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Andrew Stern and Jackie Frank)

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