By Chris Kenning
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A divided U.S. appeals court on Wednesday lifted a preliminary injunction against Ohio's lethal injection process, potentially clearing the way for the state to resume executions.
In an 8-6 ruling, the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction affirmed in April by a three-judge panel from the court that had delayed executions in Ohio. The state appealed that injunction against the use of a three-drug protocol.
The appeals court in its ruling on Wednesday disputed the lower-court finding that it was likely that Ohio's use of midazolam hydrochloride entailed a "substantial risk" of serious pain that violated prisoners' constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Midazolam is used to render condemned inmates unconscious before two other drugs are administered in executions.
"The district court's findings thus provide little support for its conclusion that Ohio's three-drug protocol creates an unconstitutional risk of pain," the majority opinion said.
A handful of U.S. states use midazolam in executions.
Allen Bohnert, one of the attorneys representing the death row prisoners who brought the lethal injection lawsuit, said in a statement he would seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Ohio should not take the risk of continued botched executions by going back to using these dangerous, unsuitable drugs," he said.
A spokesman for the Ohio governor could not immediately be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Richard Chang)