County convict joins lethal injection suit


Daniel Wilson -- convicted in a 1991 slaying -- joins Nicole Diar, 18 others who claim death penalty is torture

COLUMBUS -- A Lorain County man awaiting execution on death row for setting an Amherst woman's car on fire with her locked in the trunk has been allowed to join a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection process.

Daniel Wilson, who was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of Carol Lutz, joins Nicole Diar -- sentenced to death in 2005 for killing her 4-year-old son and setting her Lorain home on fire to cover up the crime -- in the lawsuit, which contends the state's lethal injection method amounts to torture.

James Filiaggi, also of Lorain County, who was executed in April for murdering his wife, had tried to join the lawsuit in the days leading up to his execution, but his request was ultimately denied by state and federal courts.

Four other condemned prisoners -- Grady Brinkley of Lucas County, Marvin Johnson of Guernsey County, Darryl Durr of Cuyahoga County and James Conway, under two separate death sentences in Franklin County -- also were allowed to join the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost ruled.

Frost's ruling brings to 20 the number of condemned inmates challenging the injection process, or about 10 percent of the 185 inmates on death row.

The inmates "each have a significant interest in this case" because they could face execution while the lawsuit proceeds, Frost said. None of the inmates has a scheduled execution date.

It may be awhile before inmates in the lawsuit, initially brought by convicted Akron killer Richard Cooey, get a chance to argue their case. Earlier this year, an appeals court ordered the lawsuit dismissed, saying Frost used the wrong test for establishing the starting date for the two-year time limit on such challenges.

The appeals court said Cooey, convicted of killing Dawn McCreery of North Ridgeville and Wendy Offredo in 1986, should have filed his lawsuit within two years of the date his state-level appeals were completed in 1995. The state public defender's office argues that inmates should be allowed to file after completion of all federal-level appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court must decide the deadline issue before inmates can argue about constitutional matters.

If the high court sides with the state, some of the inmates will be removed from the lawsuit. Others would be allowed to stay because they applied before their cases hit the federal courts.

The addition of Wilson to the Cooey lawsuit comes as the state is waging a battle to protect the lethal injection process against legal challenges from two Lorain County men accused of murder. They want county Common Pleas Judge James Burge to declare the state's methods cruel and unusual.

Burge has -- over the objections of prosecutors -- ordered the state to turn over information on how lethal injections are administered to condemned inmates to defense attorneys for Ruben Rivera and Ronald McCloud. Rivera is charged in the 2004 shooting death of Manuel Garcia, while McCloud is accused of raping and killing a woman in a church bathroom.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to declare that Burge exceeded his authority as a judge by considering whether the death penalty is unconstitutional before Rivera and McCloud are convicted.

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