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Governor halts 2 executions as state works on lethal injection protocol

COLUMBUS — Gov. Ted Strickland Monday issued reprieves for a pair of death row inmates facing imminent execution as the state reworks its lethal injection protocol in the wake of a failed execution attempt last month.

The governor issued reprieves until March and April respectively for Lawrence Reynolds, of Summit County, who had been scheduled to die on Thursday, and Darryl Durr, of Cuyahoga County, whose lethal injection was set for Nov. 10.

The action came just hours after the Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to postpone Reynolds' execution while a federal judge looks into allegations from a third man, Romell Broom, whose execution went awry on Sept. 17. Broom and Reynolds have argued that Ohio's lethal injection process violates their constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

In an unprecedented move, Mr. Strickland intervened to halt Broom's execution two hours into the process after the state's team of medical technicians failed, after as many as 18 attempts, to find a viable vein through which the lethal cocktail of three drugs could flow.

The governor's reprieves came as Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray was in the process of urging the U.S. Supreme Court to put Reynolds' execution back on track.

"Since Sept. 15, the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has been working to establish a back-up or alternative lethal injection protocol in the unlikely event similar circumstances arise when implementing the death penalty in the future," Mr. Strickland noted in his order.

"While the department has made progress, additional time is needed to fully conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of an alternative or back-up lethal injection protocol that is in accordance with Ohio law," he wrote.

The Democratic governor left the door open for additional reprieves if the department decides it needs more time to enact a new process and retrain the execution team. Vernon Smith, formerly of Toledo, is currently scheduled for execution on Jan. 7 for the 1993 robbery and murder of the owner of a central Toledo carryout.

Reynolds was convicted in the 1994 strangling of a 67-year-old widow near Akron. His execution is now set for March 9. Duerr, convicted in the rape and murder of an Elyria woman, now faces execution on April 20.

In a decision one judge characterized as tantamount to a moratorium on Ohio's death penalty, the 6th Circuit halted Reynolds' execution while U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost holds a hearing on Broom's challenge on Nov. 30.

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