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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ohio lethal injection executions unconstitutional, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge rules

Ohio's lethal injection process is unconstitutional because it could cause pain and the state mandates that an inmate's death be painless, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge ruled Tuesday. He ordered the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to stop using the drugs that paralyze muscles and stop the heart and simply administer a lethal dose of an anesthetic.

It's not known if the state will follow the ruling, which includes removing the phrase "or combination of drugs" from state law. Burge ruled in the cases of Ruben Rivera and Ronald McCloud, who are charged with aggravated murder. It was the first time in the U.S. that the lethal injection issue was reviewed before a trial. Their attorney, Jeffrey Gamso, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, hopes the ruling has a wide-ranging effect. "We had hoped he would have taken death off the table for these guys, and that is disappointing," Gamso said. But Gamso was pleased Burge ruled against the combination of drugs currently used to execute people in Ohio and elsewhere. "We have been fighting from one end of the U.S. to the other about this set of drugs," he said. The Ohio attorney general's office, the department of corrections and the Lorain County prosecutor's office are reviewing the decision to determine the ramifications of Burge's order and how to respond, officials said. This is a very fact specific determination and quite frankly not anything anyone has seen," said Prosecutor Dennis Will. [Mark Godsey]

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