The governor of Ohio on Monday granted a reprieve to two men facing execution, as his state re-examines lethal injection procedures in the wake of a botched attempt to put another inmate to death.
Governor Ted Strickland said the executions of Lawrence Reynolds this Thursday and Darryl Durr on November 10 would be pushed back until next year.
The announcement comes after the state tried for two hours to execute condemned murderer Rommel Broom on September 15, but executioners were unable to find a vein to administer the lethal injection, despite 18 attempts to insert a needle.
“Since September 15, the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has been working to establish a back-up or alternative lethal injection protocol in the unlikely event similar circumstances arise when implementing the death penalty in the future,” Strickland said in a statement.
“While the department has made progress, additional time is needed to fully conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of an alternative or back-up lethal injection protocol that is in accordance with Ohio law.”
A court earlier ruled in favor of Reynolds’ reprieve citing the state’s “serious and troubling difficulties” in carrying out executions despite a change in procedures in May.
“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,” the court said.
“We hereby grant Reynold’s motion for a stay of execution and remand his case to (US District Judge Gregory) Frost for fact finding and evidentiary hearings on the merits of the judgement,” the court said.
Reynolds was condemned to death in 1994 for beating and strangling to death a 67-year-old woman.
After Broom’s aborted execution, his lawyers filed two requests for stays arguing there were serious problems with the administration of lethal injections in Ohio.
They maintained that executing their client would violate the constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
They also cited the case of Christopher Newton, whose execution in May 2007 was delayed for more than an hour while executioners tried to find a vein, giving the condemned man time to go to the bathroom in the middle of the procedure.
They also pointed to the case of Joseph Clark who wept in pain in June 2008 when his vein burst during the injection.
“These disturbing issues give rise to at least two questions,” the appeals court said.
First was “whether Ohio is fully and competently adhering to the Ohio lethal injection protocol given; their failure to have a contingency plan in place should peripheral vein access be impossible; issues related to the competence of the lethal injection team.”
The use of lethal injections, which is employed in all US states that practice the death penalty, was validated in 2008 by the US Supreme Court.
Broom now faces a hearing at the end of November, while the next execution in Ohio is scheduled for December 8, when Kenneth Biros is to be put to death.
The state has executed four people so far this year.