Federal judge rejects Ohio’s new lethal injection process, puts executions on hold

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge has declared Ohio’s new lethal injection process unconstitutional and delayed three upcoming executions.

The ruling Thursday by Magistrate Judge Michael Merz followed a weeklong hearing over the three-drug method Ohio planned to use Feb. 15 on death row inmate Ronald Phillips.

Merz rejected Ohio’s use of a sedative used in problematic executions in Arizona and Ohio. The judge also barred the state from using drugs that paralyze inmates and stop their hearts.

Lawyers for Phillips argued the method announced last year is worse than a similar procedure used years ago.

The state defended the new process as constitutional and said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year paved the way for its use.

Phillips’ execution would have been the first in the state since January 2014.

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