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Federal judge moves Ohio execution forward, endorses new restrictions

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Friday rejected the appeal [Columbus Dispatch report] of condemned murderer Reginald Brooks, affirming but not definitively ruling on Ohio's new death penalty [JURIST news archive] procedures. In July, Judge Gregory Frost stayed the executions of two inmates [Columbus Dispatch report], agreeing with their arguments that Ohio executes inmates haphazardly, causing an unofficial death penalty moratorium as the federal courts considered the constitutionality of the state's death penalty procedure. Frost, who clarified that he was not ruling on officially reinstating the death penalty in all cases, stated that he was satisfied with the state of the reforms and would allow Brooks' execution to go forward as planned, despite his lawyers' arguments that the new policies have worsened the implementation of the death penalty. Frost's July decision decried Ohio's careless execution process, including not having required execution team members present, not documenting the drug mixtures used in the procedure and not checking inmates' veins prior to execution. Brooks' execution is scheduled for November 15 [The Plain Dealer report], although Brooks has appeals pending in state and federal courts [AP report].

Earlier this week, the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O'Connor [official profile] opened the first meeting of the state's death panel review committee [JURIST report]. O'Connor announced the formation of the committee [JURIST report] in September, in response to Frost's July ruling. In December 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a challenge [JURIST report] to the lethal injection method of execution and indicated that they would not hear further cases regarding lethal injection until the Ohio General Assembly [official website] explicitly expanded state review of death penalty cases. In November 2009, Ohio adopted a single-drug lethal injection protocol [JURIST report], replacing the previously used three-drug method. The single-drug lethal injection method has faced numerous challenges, with one case reaching the US Supreme Court [official website]. In March 2010, the Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to stay the execution of an Ohio inmate challenging the state's single-drug execution protocol. Ohio conducted its first execution [JURIST report] using the new procedure in December 2009. The change in procedure came after the state undertook a review [JURIST report] of its lethal injection practices in September 2009, following the planned execution of inmate Romell Broom failed when a suitable vein for the drugs' administration could not be found.

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