COLUMBUS — A federal judge has put on hold the scheduled Aug. 6 execution of William T. Montgomery for the 1986 murders of two Toledo roommates as the court delves into the latest changes in Ohio's lethal-injection process.
The order issued Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus does not mention Montgomery by name, but he is one of two executions that had been set by the Ohio Supreme Court before Aug. 15, the end of U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost's temporary moratorium.
The next execution was set for July 2 for Ronald Phillips for a Summit County murder. That execution is also on hold.
Spokesmen for Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine said they will comply with Judge Frost's order. Mr. Kasich has scheduled new execution dates for both: Sept. 18 for Phillips and Feb. 11 for Montgomery.
The order follows the state's problems with the January execution of Dennis McGuire, 53, of Montgomery County.
The state became the first to use a combination of an intravenous midazolam, a barbiturate, and hydromorphone, a potent painkiller, to execute an inmate. Witnesses described McGuire as gasping for air and making loud snorting sounds during the 26 minutes after the drugs began to flow.
Since then, Mr. Kasich commuted the sentence of Arthur Tyler of Cuyahoga County to life in prison without parole amid questions over whether he was the one actually wielding the gun in a 1983 murder.
Ohio and other states have had trouble getting their preferred drug of execution, the sedative pentobarbitol, after its European manufacturer made it unavailable for use in executions in 2011.
Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), whose own bill seeking a longer moratorium has seen no action, said she believes the federal order is a step in that direction.
“With a temporary stay, perhaps it will give some people some time to give serious thought to the need to do away with the death penalty totally,” she said. “As much as I understand that the governor has set the new dates for next year, that will be after the election. Perhaps whoever is governor will then be willing to take a more serious look at this issue.”
Montgomery's Toledo attorney, Richard Kerger, noted that his client still has an appeal pending in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
“Serious people are taking a serious look at this,” he said. “I think Governor Kasich is concerned about the issue, and that's been reflected in some of his decisions. The [state] Supreme Court and other opponents are concerned about whether the death penalty is fairly applied.”
Montgomery, 48, was sentenced to death for the killings of Debra Ogle, 20, and Cynthia Tincher, 19.
The prosecution's theory was that Ms. Ogle was killed during a robbery and Ms. Tincher was later killed to prevent her from connecting Montgomery and accomplice Glover Heard, Jr., with the prior victim.
An internal review by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction following the McGuire execution led to the decision to increase the dosages of the two drugs involved.