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Judge extends temporary halt to Ohio executions

Debate over new 2-drug combination continues

COLUMBUS — A federal judge today extended his moratorium on the carrying out of executions in Ohio through Jan. 15, putting four executions scheduled before then on hold.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus, in a one-page order, said more time is needed to gather information on Ohio’s two-drug protocol, most recently updated on April 28.

The order mentions no condemned inmates by name, but the moratorium has the effect of postponing the lethal injections of Ronald Phillips, of Summit County, scheduled for Sept. 18; Raymond Tibbetts, of Hamilton County, set for Oct. 15, Gregory Lott, of Cuyahoga County, set for Nov. 19; and Warren Henness, of Franklin County, set for Jan. 7.

The Feb. 11 execution of William T. Montgomery, convicted in the 1986 murders of two Toledo roommates, is unaffected by the extended moratorium. That execution had already been delayed from Aug. 6 under Judge Frost’s original moratorium, issued after the problematic execution of Dennis McGuire, 53, of Montgomery County.

The McGuire execution marked the first time that any state used a combination of an intravenous midazolam, a barbiturate, and hydromorphone, a potent painkiller, for an execution. Witnesses described McGuire as gasping for air and making loud snorting sounds during the 26 minutes after the drugs began to flow.

When Arizona recently used the same process, witnesses again described similar reactions.

An internal review by Ohio after the McGuire execution led to the decision to increase the dosages of both drugs, but that plan has yet to be used.

States have struggled to find their preferred execution drug, the sedative pentobarbital after its European manufacturer objected to its use in executions.

Montgomery, 48, was sentenced to death for the killings of Debra Ogle, 20, and Cynthia Tincher, 19. Ms. Ogle was killed during a robbery, and Ms. Tincher was later killed to prevent her from connecting Montgomery and accomplice Glover Heard, Jr., with Ms. Ogle.

The Ohio Parole Board is scheduled to preside over Montgomery’s request for clemency during a hearing on Jan. 20.

 

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