COLUMBUS -- A federal judge has again ordered Ohio to postpone scheduled executions, pending consideration a change in lethal injection procedures adopted by state prison officials earlier this year.
In a one-page filing Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory L. Frost ruled that "the state of Ohio and any person acting on its behalf is hereby stayed from implementing an order of execution of any Ohio inmate issued by any court of the state of Ohio until Jan. 15, 2015, or until further order from the court."
Frost issued a comparable stay earlier this year, with executions originally slated to resume next month. The new order extends the stay for another five months.
The decision affects four executions scheduled through early next year: Ronald Phillips, who was convicted in the 1993 rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl in Akron; Raymond Tibbetts, convicted of murdering his wife and an elderly man in Cincinnati in 1997; Gregory Lott, convicted in the 1986 murder of an elderly Cleveland man; and Warren Henness, convicted of murdering a Columbus man in 1992.
Phillips was originally scheduled for execution last year, but Gov. John Kasich temporarily postponed the lethal injection after the inmate asked to determine whether he could donate organs to ailing family members.
Seven other inmates have executions scheduled 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.
Prisons spokesman JoEllen Smith said the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would follow the judge's latest order.
"DRC will continue to abide by the stay orders," she said. "DRC remains committed to carrying out executions in a humane and lawful manner."