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Federal judge allows open phone line during Ohio execution

July 14, 2018

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows death row inmate Robert Van Hook, convicted of fatally strangling and stabbing David Self in 1985 after meeting him in a Cincinnati bar. Ohio Gov. John Kasich won't spare Van Hook's life, the Republican governor announced Friday, June 29, 2018, following the Ohio Parole Board's recommendation to deny mercy even though Van Hook's attorneys argued he should receive clemency due to a history of abuse and untreated mental illness. Van Hook's execution is set for July 18, 2018. (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction via AP, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge is allowing the use of an open phone line to his courtroom during an Ohio execution scheduled for next week.

The decision by Judge Michael Merz again permits a system created last year when defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to stop an execution based on the inmate’s reaction to the lethal drugs.

Under the order, attorneys for death row inmate Robert Van Hook and an assistant attorney general will be on the line with the judge in case something goes awry.

The 58-year-old Van Hook is set to die Wednesday for the strangling and stabbing death of David Self in Cincinnati in 1985. His attorneys fought his execution, citing his childhood physical, mental and sexual abuse, but he is now out of appeals.

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