Ohio’s de facto moratorium on the death penalty is over.
The judge who halted capital punishment in January after slamming the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for failing to follow its own rules in carrying out executions issued an order Wednesday that will allow capital punishment to resume.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of the Southern District of Ohio wrote that the prison department had taken enough steps to improve its execution rules, and that Mark Wiles failed to prove otherwise in his bid to stop his scheduled April 18 execution.
Even though he sided with the state, Judge Frost made it clear that he is still a bit skeptical about Ohio’s ability to administer the death penalty evenly each time.
“This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio just enough to permit the scheduled execution,” Frost wrote. “The court reaches this conclusion with some trepidation given Ohio’s history of telling this court what (they) think they need to say in order to conduct executions and then not following through on promised reforms.”
The ruling means that Mr. Wiles is likely to die by injection in two weeks.
Judge Frost noted that prison officials deviated from their rules during the 2009 failed execution of Romell Broom, when the execution team tried unsuccessfully for two hours to insert shunts into Broom’s body to carry the lethal concoction.
The state told the court it had revamped its rules after the Broom case.
In November, the state executed another Cleveland man, Reginald Brooks, under the newly written rules. After that execution, Judge Frost determined that the state deviated from its rules.
The state argued that its deviations were small, but Judge Frost disagreed and ruled that Charles Lorraine would likely be able to succeed in his separate case against the state charging that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
Since that ruling, the prison department has devised yet another plan. The state made its case during an eight-day trial in March in Judge Frost’s courtroom.
Judge Frost’s ruling does not address whether Ohio’s lethal injection process is constitutional, and several inmates have filed separate cases arguing that it is not.
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