The US Supreme Court today added another wrinkle to Ohio's debate over how strictly the state's lethal injection procedures should be followed, refusing to allow the execution of a condemned killer of an elderly couple to proceed.
The execution has been delayed by federal courts over concerns that the state continues to deviate too often from its written rules for lethal injection. Ohio is one of 35 states with the death penalty.
The decision is likely to further delay executions, even though Ohio's procedures have never been ruled unconstitutional.
Lower courts had decided in inmate Charles Lorraine's case that Ohio had strayed too far from its execution policies to be trusted to carry out the death sentence for now.
The deviations criticized by the courts include changes in which official announced the start and finish times of an injection, as well as the failure to properly document that an inmate's medical chart was reviewed.
Federal courts must monitor every Ohio execution "because the State cannot be trusted to fulfill its otherwise lawful duty to execute inmates sentenced to death," the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month.
Lorraine, 45, has spent years unsuccessfully appealing his death sentence. Records show that Lorraine stabbed 77-year-old Raymond Montgomery and his bedridden wife, 80-year-old Doris Montgomery in 1986.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has rejected Lorraine's plea for mercy on the grounds of a troubled childhood, lousy legal representation and a prosecutor who violated rules of conduct at trial.
The office of Attorney General Mike DeWine had argued to the US Supreme Court that minor deviations in execution policy don't mean the system is unconstitutional.
DeWine had said that without Supreme Court action, Ohio is in danger of having dozens of executions delayed on a case-by-case basis.
It's likely that other inmates will ask for delays until the issue over the deviations is resolved.