COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday delayed next week’s execution of cult leader Jeffrey Lundgren to allow him to join a lawsuit by five other death row inmates challenging the state’s use of lethal injection.
In his request to join the lawsuit, Lundgren, 56, said he is at even greater risk of experiencing pain and suffering during the procedure than other inmates because he is overweight and diabetic.
Similar lawsuits filed in several states have led to the halting of executions in Missouri, Delaware and New Jersey.
Opponents have argued that the use of the lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel and painful and that the procedure is often carried out without specifically trained medical personnel present.
But Ohio’s method of lethal injection came under national scrutiny by death penalty opponents in May after problems slowed the execution of another inmate who was a former intravenous drug user and the vein the execution team chose collapsed as the chemicals started flowing.
While Judge Gregory Frost issued an order temporarily delaying Lundgren’s execution, he said it appears to him that potential flaws with Ohio’s execution process could easily be corrected.
“Thus, any delay in carrying out Lundgren’s execution should and can be minimal,” Frost said.
State Attorney General Jim Petro will appeal the ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, said spokesman Mark Anthony.
Lundgren’s sentence stems from a conviction for the fatal shooting of a family of five in 1989. The family, which included three children, were killed while they stood in a pit dug inside his barn in northeast Ohio.
Lundgren formed a cult after he was dismissed in 1987 as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ.
He said passages in the Bible told him to kill the family. Several witnesses said the family was not as enthusiastic about the cult as Lundgren would have liked.
The family he killed had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren’s teachings.
Frost’s decision allows Lundgren to join a 2004 lawsuit brought by death row inmate Richard Cooey, convicted of the rape and murder of two University of Akron students in 1986.
Cooey argues that the way chemicals used in lethal injection are administered makes the process painful enough to amount to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the constitution.
Four other inmates had previously joined the lawsuit.