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Court refuses to delay execution

COLUMBUS, Ohio ó Convicted killer Robert Buell lost a chance for a last-minute hearing after the Ohio Supreme Court refused to delay his todayís execution.

The 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Cleveland wanted more time to consider Buellís objection to the hypnotizing of witnesses at his trial. The court had scheduled a 9 a.m. hearing today, an hour before the scheduled execution.

The state Supreme Court denied the request without comment.

Buell, 62, also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a delay. In April 2001, a similar request by the same appeals court halted the execution of convicted killer Jay D. Scott 65 minutes before he was scheduled to die. Scott, who argued that he was a schizophrenic and should not be on death row, was executed two months later.

Buell is to die by injection for raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl in northeast Ohio. Krista Harrison was kidnapped July 17, 1982, from a park across the street from her home in Marshallville. Her body was found six days later along a country road.

Buell, a former Akron city worker, lived in nearby Clinton. His lawyers say prosecutors withheld evidence that witnesses had been hypnotized, preventing Buell from being able to properly defend himself. Buellís lawyers say the hypnosis enhanced or altered the witnessesí memories before they testified.

State and federal appeals courts have ruled prosecutors did not act improperly and that the evidence was so overwhelming that the witnesses were not crucial to Buellís conviction.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati also refused to delay the execution. Gov. Bob Taft refused to reduce Buellís sentence to life in prison.

Four men have been executed since Taft took office in 1999. He denied clemency each time.

Prosecutors say Buellís conviction was based on physical evidence, including orange carpet fibers on the body that matched a roll in his home and jeans and a shirt found near the girl that were similar to his clothing.

Buell came close to dying in January 1996. He was served his final meal and awaited a court decision until 17 minutes after the scheduled execution, when a stay was upheld, allowing his federal appeals to continue. His last federal appeal was denied in December.

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