Ohio appeals judge's order halting execution

AP News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2012 5:06 PM
Ohio appeals judge's order halting execution

A federal judge on Wednesday delayed next week's scheduled execution of a man who stabbed to death an elderly couple, saying Ohio's corrections department had once again failed to follow its own rules for executions. The state immediately appealed.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost said he does not want to micromanage Ohio executions but added that the Department of Corrections has left him no choice by disobeying his previous orders. Charles Lorraine was scheduled to die by injection on Jan. 18.

Frost said the state failed to document the drugs used in its last execution in November and failed to review the medical chart of the inmate who was put to death.

Frost scolded the state in his opinion by saying if Ohio would do a better job of explaining why it might deviate from its policies, it might not be in this position.

"Do not lie to the Court, do not fail to do what you tell this Court you must do, and do not place the Court in the position of being required to change course in this litigation after every hearing," Frost wrote. "Today's adverse decision against Defendants is again a curiously if not inexplicably self-inflicted wound."

The Ohio Attorney General's office said it was appealing to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The prison system believes it "performs executions in a constitutional and humane manner," said spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

Lorraine's attorneys applauded Frost's decision. The "ruling makes it clear that the Constitution protects all individuals against the power of the state and that the government, too, must follow the law," said federal public defender Allen Bohnert.

Lorraine, 45, of Warren, spent years unsuccessfully appealing his death sentence. Records show Lorraine stabbed 77-year-old Raymond Montgomery five times with a butcher's knife and stabbed his bedridden wife, 80-year-old Doris Montgomery, nine times before burglarizing their Trumbull County home in 1986.

Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday rejected Lorraine's plea for mercy on the grounds of a troubled childhood, lousy legal representation and a prosecutor who violated rules of conduct at trial.

Kasich followed the opinion of the Ohio Parole Board, which said that Lorraine's siblings overcame the same upbringing and that any prosecutorial misconduct would not have affected the trial's outcome.

The board also said Lorraine targeted a vulnerable couple, then slaughtered them and stole their valuables.

Frost acknowledged in his opinion that the state's departures from the rules seemed minor on the surface, but that Lorraine's attorney had provided enough evidence that they mattered. Frost said the issue was the state's failure to follow its own protocol to the letter, not the seriousness of any violations.

In the Nov. 15 execution of Reginald Brooks, evidence indicates that Ohio failed to review Brooks' medical chart upon his arrival at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, home to Ohio's death house, as required by the state's policies.

An inmate's medical status, especially the condition of his veins, has been an issue since 2009 when executioners tried unsuccessfully to insert needles into an inmate's veins before the execution was finally called off. Inmate Romell Broom remains on death row, appealing the state's right to try to execute him again.

Executioners also failed to properly "document the name or description, the expiration date, and the lot number of the execution drugs used" in Brooks' execution, Frost said.

Brooks was executed for shooting his three sons as they slept in 1982, shortly after his wife filed for divorce.

Frost called the case frustrating.

"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," he said.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.