Two federal courts have now agreed with a condemned inmate's contention that Ohio has broken its promise to adhere strictly to its execution procedures, despite the state's claims that deviations from them during the last execution were minor.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday that Charles Lorraine's execution scheduled for next week should be delayed while those changes and the reasons for them are reviewed. Lorraine, 45, was scheduled to die Wednesday for fatally stabbing an elderly couple 25 years ago.
Federal courts must monitor every single Ohio execution, "because the State cannot be trusted to fulfill its otherwise lawful duty to execute inmates sentenced to death," according to the two-page decision by a three-judge panel.
Friday's decision backs a ruling two days ago by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost, who criticized Ohio for those minor deviations from its policy during the November execution of Reginald Brooks, who shot his three sons while they slept.
Lorraine's attorney declined to comment, and the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said it was reviewing the decision.
Earlier Friday, the state argued the deviations that occurred during a November execution were negligible _ such as letting one official and not another announce the start and finish times of an injection _ and wouldn't cause pain to an inmate or violate his rights, and the execution should proceed.
"Lorraine failed to make any showing that there is a sure or very likely risk that he will suffer severe pain," Principal Assistant Attorney General Charles Wille said in a filing with the 6th Circuit.
"How does a `sure or very likely risk' of pain and suffering arise from the decision to allow a Team Member other than the Drug Administrator to announce the start and finish times of each injection?" Wille said. "Or from the decision to allow a trained pharmacist, rather than the Team Leader, to document the name, expiration date, and lot number of the execution drugs used?"
The state chose not to appeal a much stronger ruling by Frost in July that scolded the Department of Corrections for what he called haphazard and embarrassing deviations to its own rules. Instead, Ohio rewrote its policies and said it would follow them in the future. With those changes in place, Frost refused to stop the execution of Brooks in November.
The way Ohio puts inmates to death has been under scrutiny since 2009 when executioners tried unsuccessfully for nearly two hours to insert a needle into the veins of Romell Broom, sentenced to die for raping and killing a 14-year-old Cleveland girl. Then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, eventually called the execution off and Broom remains on death row, arguing in court filings that Ohio shouldn't be allowed a second try at executing him.
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.
Republican Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday rejected Lorraine's plea for mercy.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.