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Federal judge allows Ohio executions to proceed

Judge Gregory Frost of the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Wednesday denied a motion for an injunction to delay the execution of Mark Wiles. Frost, who had previously stayed the executions of two inmates [JURIST report] when he agreed with the argument that Ohio's execution procedures were haphazard, found that the new procedures were successfully rehearsed in late February. At issue has been a set of procedures that were not effectively followed, and subsequently not reported properly back to the court. The deviations in death penalty protocol included switching the official whose job it is to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection, and failing to properly document that the inmate's medical chart was reviewed. Frost indicated that the current procedures were barely acceptable. Frost noted that while Wiles contended that Ohio's presentation of a "wholly discretionary approach to their written execution protocol and their informal policies" represented an Equal Protection violation, he did not meet the burden of proof required, and thus, the motion for temporary injunction could not be granted.

Ohio's death penalty procedures have been the source or concern and increased judicial scrutiny recently. In early February the US Supreme Court [official website] denied [JURIST report] Ohio's request to put a condemned killer to death, effectively putting the state's executions on hold pending a review of new procedures. Last November, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor instructed the state's death panel review committee [JURIST report] that its purpose was to provide "guidance on the current laws on the subject, the practices in other jurisdictions, the date, the costs, and many other aspects associated with the death penalty." O'Connor announced the formation of the committee [JURIST report] last September, declaring that it would be responsible for ensuring that the death penalty law is "administered in the most fair, efficient, and judicious manner possible." In March 2010, the Supreme Court refused to stay the execution of an Ohio inmate [JURIST report] who challenged the state's single-drug lethal injection protocol, which was changed [JURIST report] in November 2009 from the previously used three-drug method. Ohio conducted its first execution [JURIST report] using the new method in December 2009. The change in protocol came after the state reviewed its lethal injection practices [JURIST report] following a failed execution in September 2009.

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