Ohio Governor John Kasich on Monday delayed nine executions because of an ongoing court battle over the state's lethal injection protocol.
The move by Kasich was necessary, the governor's office said, because a review by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would not be complete before June 14, when oral arguments in the Cincinnati court are scheduled.
That meant postponing the planned May 10 execution of Ronald Phillips, who was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter, and eight others.
At issue is an injunction from a lower court after inmates showed it was likely that Ohio's use of midazolam hydrochloride to render them unconscious before two other drugs are administered in executions entailed a "substantial risk" of serious pain that violated their constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
Several U.S. states use midazolam in executions, including in Oklahoma and Arizona, where witnesses said inmates appeared to twist in pain on death row gurneys.
The Republican governor said the timing of arguments before a Cincinnati federal appeals court makes the delay necessary. The court is hearing Ohio's appeal of a federal judge's order finding the state's latest execution process unconstitutional.
(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Dan Grebler)