By Marc Kovac
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wednesday to allow the execution of convicted Trumbull County murderer Charles Lorraine to move forward.
Justices were not swayed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s arguments that the state’s execution methods were constitutional, and that a stay issued by a federal judge should be lifted.
Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins called the decision “disappointing,” given the extended legal proceedings in the case.
“It’s grossly unfair to the victims’ family,” Watkins told The Vindicator after Wednesday’s decision by the high court, “because this is a heinous crime against two senior citizens that happened in 1986. We had two granddaughters coming to the execution, which was scheduled in January. We had an 84-year-old brother of the deceased who was going to go to the execution. And we had other family members in their 90s. They’ve made it clear that they’ve been waiting for justice. ... How long do they have to wait?”
He added, “This man got a fair trial. He deserves to be executed.”
Lorraine received the death penalty for the 1986 knifing deaths of Raymond and Doris Montgomery, the latter confined to a bed at the time. Lorraine stabbed both multiple times before ransacking their Warren home and using the money and personal items he stole to buy drinks for friends at a bar.
Gov. John Kasich declined clemency in the case, a decision that was in line with the unanimous recommendation of the state parole board.
However, federal district judge Gregory Frost stopped Lorraine’s scheduled execution last month after determining that Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction officials failed to properly document the preparation of execution drugs and control who participated in the November execution of Reginald Brooks, among other issues. The procedural lapses came after the state offered assurances that it would follow new protocols it had outlined to the court.
Legal proceedings in the case will continue. DeWine said his office will move forward with briefings on the full case this month in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the meantime, the DRC is honing its execution protocols and policies with hopes of rectifying issues raised by Frost — a course that could lead to the judge’s allowing the execution to move forward.
“They are working on that, and at some point, once they are comfortable that they will be in total compliance with Judge Frost’s order, they will tell me and we will go back to Judge Frost with the information,” DeWine said, adding, “While we still believe that the discrepancies that occurred during the execution did not raise to a constitutional violation, irrespective of that, it has always been our intent to try to comply with what the judge wrote in his order.”
The case has affected at least one other scheduled execution. Death Row inmate Michael Webb’s trip to Lucasville this month was postponed. He was convicted in the 1990 murder of his 3-year-old son after setting fire to his home in Clermont County.
The next scheduled execution is in mid-April, for Mark Wiles, convicted in the brutal knifing death of a Rootstown teen in Portage County in 1985.
There are no executions scheduled during March.
DeWine declined to speculate how quickly the legal issues related to Ohio’s execution protocols could be resolved.
“I think we have to take this thing one step at a time,” he said. “There’s a lot of balls in the air here.”