COLUMBUS -- A federal judge has postponed the next two scheduled Ohio executions, citing a change in lethal injection procedures adopted by state prison officials last month.
In a short statement filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Judge Gregory L. Frost ordered the stay in executions until Aug. 15.
Ronald Phillips was slated to receive his lethal injection on July 2 after receiving a temporary stay from Gov. John Kasich last year to determine whether he could donate organs to ailing family members. Phillips was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and murder a 3-year-old girl in Akron.
Frost's decision also affects William Montgomery, who was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 6 for the murder of two Toledo women in 1986.
Gov. John Kasich quickly issued reprieves for both Phillips and Montgomery, setting new execution dates of Sept. 18 and Feb. 11, 2015, respectively.
Pending further delays, Phillips still would be the next inmate scheduled for execution, followed by Raymond Tibbetts, who murdered his wife and another man in Cincinnati in 1997. The latter is facing a lethal injection in October. Eight other executions are scheduled in Ohio through early 2016.
Frost is considering legal challenges to Ohio's execution methods, following the prolonged death of Dennis McGuire in January and a subsequent decision by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to increase the dosage of two drugs used in lethal injections.
McGuire, who received a capital sentence for the rape and murder of a pregnant Preble County woman, was the first inmate executed using a new two-drug combination. The process took about 25 minutes, and witnesses described him gasping for breath.
State prison officials who reviewed his execution said McGuire was "asleep and not conscious" and "did not experience pain, distress or air hunger" during his lethal injection.
JoEllen Smith, state prisons spokeswoman, declined comment on Frost's order, citing the pending litigation.
Asked whether an appeal of Frost's stay was in the works, Lisa Peterson Hackley, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, offered, "We are prepared to follow the judge's order."