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Published: Wednesday, 5/28/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Judge orders temporary moratorium on Ohio executions

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- The scheduled August executon of William T. Montgomery for the 1986 murders of two Toledo roomates has been put on hold by a federal judge along with the June execution of another death row inmate by a federal judge as he delves into changes made in Ohio's lethal injection process.

The order issued Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus does not mention either inmate by name, but they are the only two whose executions have been set by the Ohio Supreme Court through Aug. 15, the date specified in his order.

The order amounts to a two and a half month moratorium on executions in the state after the state experienced problems with the January execution of Dennis McGuire, 53, of Montgomery County, as the state became the first to use an untried combination of an intravenous barbiturate and painkiller to execute an inmate.

Witnesses described McGuire as gasping for air and making loud snorting sounds during the 26 minutes after the sedative midazolam and potent painkiller hydromorphone began to flow.

Gov. John Kasich on May 28 granted clemency to Arthur Tyler, of Cuyahoga County, commuting his sentence to life in prison without parole amid questions over whether he was the one actually wielding the gun in that murder.

The state has also changed its lethal injection protocoal again, deciding to significantly increase the dosages of the two drugs involved. That process was slated to be used for the first time on Ronald Phillips, facing execution for a Summit County murder, on July 2.

That execution is also now on hold.

The governor and lawmakers have resisted proposals to enact a moratorium on executions while the state looks at the problems in the McGuire execution specifically and more generally the problems that Ohio and other states have had in getting their preferred drug of exection, the powerful sedative pentobarbitol, after the drug's European manufacturer made it unavailable for use in executions.

The state has had trouble finding a compounding pharmacy willing to replicate the drug from scratch for the state as other states have done.

Montgomery, 48, was sentenced to death for the killings of Debra Ogle, 20, and Cynthia Tincher, 19. The prosecution's theory was that Ms. Ogle was killed during a robbery and Ms. Tincher was later killed to prevent her from connecting him and accomplice Glover Heard, Jr., with the prior victim.

Montgomery accused Heard of using Montgomery's pistol to kill the women, but Heard struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against Montgomery. Montgomery is now incarcerated on Ohio's death row at the Chillicothe Correctinal Institution.

An internal review by the Ohio Department of Rehabiliation and Correction following the McGuire execution led to the decision that the lethal injection protocol had been properly carried out. Despite that, the review recommended increasing the dosages of the two drugs involved.

It remains to be seen whether the next execution outside the moratorium, Ronald Tibbitts for killing his Cincinnati wife, will take place as scheduled on Oct. 15.



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