COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge on Wednesday delayed next week's execution of a man who stabbed to death an elderly couple, saying the state had once again failed to follow its own rules for executions.
U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost said he does not want to micromanage Ohio executions but added that the Department of Corrections has left him no choice by disobeying his previous orders. Charles Lorraine was scheduled to die by injection on Jan. 18.
Frost said the state failed to document the drugs used in its last execution in November and failed to review the medical chart of the inmate who was put to death.
Frost scolded the state in his opinion by saying if Ohio would do a better job of explaining why it might deviate from its policies, it might not be in this position.
"Do not lie to the Court, do not fail to do what you tell this Court you must do, and do not place the Court in the position of being required to change course in this litigation after every hearing," Frost wrote. "Today's adverse decision against Defendants is again a curiously if not inexplicably self-inflicted wound."
Both the prisons system and the Ohio attorney general's office were reviewing the decision and could not immediately comment. The state has usually, but not always, appealed similar decisions by Frost to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lorraine, 45, of Warren, spent years unsuccessfully appealing his death sentence. Records show Lorraine stabbed 77-year-old Raymond Montgomery five times with a butcher's knife and stabbed his bedridden wife, 80-year-old Doris Montgomery, nine times before burglarizing their Trumbull County home in 1986.
Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday 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.
Kasich followed the opinion of the Ohio Parole Board, which said that Lorraine's siblings overcame the same upbringing and that any prosecutorial misconduct would not have affected the trial's outcome.
The board also said Lorraine targeted a vulnerable couple, then slaughtered them and stole their valuables.
Frost acknowledged in his opinion that the state's departures from the rules seemed minor on the surface, but that Lorraine's attorney had provided enough evidence that they mattered. Frost said the issue was the state's failure to follow its own protocol to the letter, not the seriousness of any violations.
In the Nov. 15 execution of Reginald Brooks, evidence indicates that Ohio failed to review Brooks' medical chart upon his arrival at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, home to Ohio's death house, as required by the state's policies.
Executioners also failed to properly "document the name or description, the expiration date, and the lot number of the execution drugs used," Frost said.
Brooks was executed for shooting his three sons as they slept in 1982, shortly after his wife filed for divorce.
Frost called the case frustrating.
"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," he said.