Thursday, January 12, 2012

Southern District Court again postpones Ohio execution

As an Ohio Supreme Court’s task force continues its examination of that state’s capital punishment protocol, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost yesterday postponed the execution of Charles Lorraine, who stabbed an elderly couple to death back in 1986, finding that the Ohio Department of Corrections failed to follow some of its own guidelines in the state's newest version of its execution rules.

Gov. John Kasich had denied Lorraine clemency Tuesday, following a parole board's unanimous recommendation against mercy, and that Lorraine's siblings overcame the same upbringing and that any prosecutorial misconduct would not have affected the trial's outcome. His lawyers argued his life should be spared because of a troubled childhood, lousy legal representation and a prosecutor who violated rules of conduct at trial.

The Southern District, obviously impatient with the state’s progress, rendered “This case is frustrating. For close to eight years, the Court has dealt with inmate challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio’s execution protocol. During that time, the litigation has morphed from focusing primarily on allegations of cruel and unusual punishment to allegations of equal protection violations. Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms….

"The end result is that rather than proceeding to a final conclusion in this case that would enable Ohio to proceed to fulfill its lawful duty to execute inmates sentenced to death free from this ongoing litigation, Ohio has unnecessarily and inexplicably created easily avoidable problems that force this Court to once again stay an execution.

"This is frustrating to the Court because no judge is a micro-manager of executions and no judge wants to find himself mired in ongoing litigation in which he must continually babysit the parties. But the law is what it is, and the facts are what they are. The Constitution demands that a judge honor the rights embodied in that document, that a judge appreciate the nuance involved in those rights rather than adopting a constitutionally irresponsible, “big-picture, close enough” approach, and that a judge follow the evidence presented by the parties to whatever principled conclusion it leads–no matter how easily avoided and frustrating that conclusion may be. In other words, if Ohio would only do what it says it will do, everyone involved in this case can finally move on.” (Holding)

The original execution protocol case in the Southern District dates back to 2004 with Richard Cooey’s appeal, the Court’s record shows. Over the years other inmates had filed additional cases up until last November when, by agreement of the parties, the Court ultimately consolidated all execution protocol cases. (See consolidation order)

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