CINCINNATI, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- In an unusual move, the chief federal judge for southern Ohio has removed five death penalty cases from U.S. District Judge Walter Rice, a report said.
Rice has been accused of allowing death penalty cases to languish, making it difficult for prosecutors to retry them if they are overturned on appeal, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Friday.
"Once a case goes in there, we don't hear from him for eight years," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. "It's like a black hole in the universe."
Two of the appeals removed from Rice's docket Thursday were filed nearly eight years ago while the most recent case has been waiting three years.
In taking the action, chief U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith said the purpose was to ease Rice's workload.
"Judge Rice has a very heavy docket, and it seemed logical to give him some relief," she told the newspaper. "These are enormous cases. They take a lot of time."