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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

U.S. top court declines to halt Ohio execution


COLUMBUS - The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to stop the execution of a death row inmate who strangled an elderly neighbor in 1994 and who last week tried to kill himself by overdosing on pills.

Lawrence Reynolds, Jr., 43, had asked the high court for a delay while he challenged Ohio's lethal-injection procedure. The court refused without comment to intervene in today's execution.

Reynolds was convicted of killing Loretta Foster, a 67-year-old widow who baby-sat kids in her neighborhood and lived three doors from him in Cuyahoga Falls near Akron.

Prosecutors said Reynolds was an alcoholic who was out of work and needed money to buy alcohol.

He forced his way into Ms. Foster's house, strangled her with rope, and left with $40 in cash and a blank check from her purse.

Gov. Ted Strickland postponed his original execution date last fall while the state reviewed its execution method.

Last week, just days before his execution date, prison guards found Reynolds unconscious in his cell from a suicide attempt.

Mental health staff who met with Reynolds yesterday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, which houses the state's death chamber, recommended that he remain under constant observation.

Personal property in his cell is being limited to a white T-shirt, a pair of underwear, socks, and blue prison pants, said prisons spokesman Julie Walburn.

Reynolds would need special approval for writing materials or headphones, she said.

Prison officials have released few details about Reynolds' suicide attempt. It's unclear whether he had visitors before the overdose or stockpiled medication prescribed for him.

Authorities have not identified the drug he took.

Reynolds would be the fourth inmate to die by Ohio's new lethal-injection procedure, which uses a one-drug method instead of three. Death came in just a few minutes for the others.

His attorneys had been challenging the new method, saying the state still hasn't corrected problems with accessing inmates' veins before the single drug is used.

Appealing to the Supreme Court was his last legal option.

At Lucasville yesterday, Reynolds asked for and received a cup of coffee and spent the morning lying on his bed, Ms. Walburn said.

He took a shower in the afternoon, twice called a friend, and ordered a special meal that included a Porterhouse steak, pork chops, and jumbo fried shrimp, Ms. Walburn said.

"He's been calm and cooperative with the staff. He's indicated that he'll cooperate tomorrow," she said.

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