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Ohio judge delays execution for man who killed couple

By Jim Leckrone

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday delayed the execution of an Ohio man convicted of killing two people, finding that the state enforces some execution policies in an inconsistent way.

"Ohio pays lip service to standards it then often ignores without valid reasons, sometimes with no physical ramification and sometimes with what has been described as messy if not botched executions," wrote U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost.

Kenneth W. Smith, 45, was scheduled to die July 19. He was convicted along with his brother Randy Smith of murdering Lewis Ray and his wife Ruth Ray in their Hamilton, Ohio home as part of a 1995 robbery.

Smith and other inmates argued to Foster that Ohio does not always have the required number of medical team members present for an execution and does not always properly document the preparation of drugs.

Frost's ruling does not conclusively hold that Ohio's method of execution is unconstitutional. But it acts as a stay on executions until a trial on the issue, which is scheduled for late October, said Gregory W. Meyers, an Ohio public defender

"The arbitrary and rather cavalier manner in which they depart from protocol is denying inmates' rights," said Meyers. He expects the government to appeal.

Lisa Hackley, a spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general's office, said its attorneys are reviewing the judge's order. Ohio has executed four people so far in 2011, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

"The task of implementing court-ordered capital punishment sentences is a difficult one," said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "However, we are confident our team consistently carries out that responsibility in a professional, humane, dignified manner."

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Reporting by Jim Leckrone in Columbus; Editing by Greg McCune)