Gov. Ted Strickland on Monday postponed the execution of a convicted killer who managed to take an overdose of pills in his death row cell and was found unconscious just hours before he was to be driven to his execution.
Lawrence Reynolds Jr., 43, who was sentenced to die for killing his neighbor in 1994, was found unconscious around 11:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, prisons spokeswoman Julie Walburn said. He was alone in his cell on death row, she said.
Reynolds, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday, was showing signs of consciousness Monday at a Youngstown hospital, but medical staff weren't prepared to release him, Walburn said. He was upgraded from serious to stable condition.
The inmate managed to take the pills despite being under a death watch — routine for inmates 72 hours away from being executed — and frequent monitoring by prison guards, Walburn said. She did not say what kind of pills they were or how he got them, and an investigation is under way.
She declined to call it a suicide attempt. Strickland issued a seven-day reprieve and rescheduled the execution for March 16.
No further details about Reynolds' activities on Sunday were released. He was scheduled to leave at 3 a.m. Monday for the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, where the state's death chamber is located.
Attorneys Reynolds has been challenging Ohio's new lethal injection procedure, which uses a one-drug system instead of three drugs. As expected, his attorneys filed an appeal Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to postpone the execution.
Messages seeking comment were left Monday with the Ohio public defender's office, which is representing Reynolds.
This appears to be the first time since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1999 that an inmate scheduled for execution "has been found unresponsive mere hours from being transported" to the state death chamber, Walburn said.
Reynolds was sentenced to die for strangling his 67-year-old neighbor in her Cuyahoga Falls home to get money for alcohol.
Tuesday would have been the second time the state has tried to execute Reynolds. He was scheduled to die in October, but Strickland delayed the execution so the state could review its lethal injection procedure.
Since then, Ohio has switched from a three-drug process, which opponents said could cause severe pain, to the one-drug system. Reynolds lost a bid to have the execution delayed so he could challenge the new system when federal appeals court on Friday denied his request.
Three inmates have been executed with the state's new, one-drug new method, and in each case death came in just a few minutes. Washington last week became the second state to adopt the procedure.