COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich has postponed eight scheduled executions as the state continues to work through legal challenges and attempt to locate supplies of the drugs it uses to put inmates to death.
The move Feb. 10 comes a couple of weeks after a federal magistrate judge blocked three executions that were scheduled through April, ruling that the new lethal injection process adopted by the state was unconstitutional.
Ronald Phillips, who was convicted in the brutal rape and murder of an Akron girl in 1993, was scheduled to be executed next week. He's now scheduled for execution on May 10.
Gary Otte, who faced a March 15 execution date in the killing of two people in Cuyahoga County in 1992, has been moved to June 13.
And Raymond Tibbetts, facing an April 12 execution for the murder of his wife an an elderly man in Hamilton County in1997, was pushed back to July 26.
The postponements continue a years-long legal challenge over Ohio's lethal injection protocols, following the execution of Dennis McGuire in January 2014.
McGuire, who received a capital sentence for the rape and murder of a pregnant Preble County woman, gasped for breath during what witnesses described as a prolonged procedure under the state's two-drug execution method.
In early 2015, state prison officials abandoned that combination, switching to two different drugs, though that protocol has not been used.
The state and others have struggled to find supplies of execution drugs, after manufacturers blocked their use for lethal injections. State law changes enabled the purchase of drugs from compounding pharmacies, under legislation that allowed the names of those businesses to be kept secret, but prison officials have not identified or obtained supplies in that way.
In October, state prison officials announced a new three-drug lethal injection protocol, using midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. But a federal magistrate judge last month ruled the new process was unconstitutional, noting in documents, "The court concludes that use of midazolam as the first drug in Ohio's present three-drug protocol will create a 'substantial risk of serious harm' or an 'objectively intolerable risk of harm'"
The governor's office announced Friday that a pending review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was not expected to be completed in time already-scheduled executions.
According to the governor's office, "Accordingly, these delays are necessary to allow the judicial process to come to a full resolution, and ensure that the state can move forward with the executions."
Asked earlier this month whether the state would ever in a position to execute inmates, Kasich responded, "I don't know. I just don't have the answer to that We have a guy that raped and murdered a 3-year-old girl. He's next in line. I can't tell the judges what to do. Some of them are probably philosophically opposed to the death penalty. No matter what we do, they're going to remain opposed to it. I don't have any better answer to that."
He added, "I would like to proceed. There's no joy or anything in this. It's just it's a matter of justice, particularly for the families that have been aggrieved. We'll do the best we can."
Kasich has postponed executions on several occasions since McGuire's death. Other dates that were pushed back Feb. 10 included:
Alva Campbell, Jr., convicted in the 1997 murder of a Franklin County man, to Sept. 13 from May 10.
William Montgomery, convicted in the 1986 murder of two women in Lucas County, to Oct. 18 from June 13.
Robert Van Hook, convicted in the 1985 murder of a Hamilton County man, to Nov. 15 from July 26.
Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, convicted in the 1991 murder of a Hamilton County girl, to April 17, 2019, from Sept. 13.
Melvin Bonnell, convicted in the 1987 murder of a Cuyahoga County man, to April 11, 2018, from Oct. 18.
More than 30 executions are scheduled through early 2021.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.