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Reynolds v. Strickland Complaint Challenging
Ohio Lethal Injection Protocol

Jail Hand ImageThe Office of the Ohio Public Defender has filed a federal civil rights complaint for death row inmate Lawrence Reynolds. The complaint alleges that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C §1983 on May 7, 2008, is before United States District Judge Gregory Frost.

Reynolds’ complaint alleges that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol creates a substantial risk of unnecessary pain and suffering due to the drugs used and unresolved problems related to the way that the drugs are administered. Moreover, Reynolds asserts that Ohio’s protocol is different from the Kentucky protocol recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court. In Ohio, unlike in Kentucky, there is a record of serious problems arising during the executions of inmates Joseph Clark and Christopher Newton. Reynolds also argues that his claims are not time-barred under the two-year statute of limitations because his action runs from July 2006, when the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) changed its execution protocol.

Reynolds also amended this complaint to include a claim based on a violation of the Ohio statute, ORC §2949.22. Unlike the less-restrictive constitutional standard of review, this statute requires a quick and painless death during execution. Reynolds’ new claim follows from a June 10th ruling by Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge. Judge Burge reasoned that the current protocol violates the statute because the use of the second and third drugs (pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride) creates an unnecessary risk of a painful death by lethal injection. Judge Burge ordered ODRC to eliminate those two drugs from Ohio’s lethal injection protocol. Reynolds asserts that the Due Process Clause protects his interest in ORC §2949.22.

"Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety.
 Even the wise cannot see all ends."

J.R.R. Tolkien

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