COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Ohio delayed the executions of death row inmates while the state awaits a ruling on lethal injection drugs.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Merz ruled Monday that Ohio cannot resume executions until an appeals court rules on whether the state must reveal the identities of companies manufacturing the drug combinations used in executions. The appeals court has until Jan. 3 to decide on whether drug companies must be identified.
Ohio has had problems obtaining the drugs used in lethal injections, in part because pharmaceutical manufacturers do not want to be associated with the state execution process. In 2014, Ohio passed a secrecy law to encourage compounding pharmacies, small-scale manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, to produce lethal-injection drugs.
Merz's ruling Monday delayed the execution of Ronald Phillips, who will be Ohio's first execution in three years if he is executed on Jan. 12. The state has 23 executions scheduled through 2019, all of which were pushed back to new dates because of the ruling, and 140 people on its death row.
The Jan. 3 hearing concerns a suit brought by 65 death row inmates who are challenging a 2015 judicial order allowing the state to withhold the names of makers of the drugs required for an execution. The order also protects the names of state officials who obtain and administer the drugs.