McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

March 26, 2014

Oklahoma judge tosses state execution law

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma judge ruled the state’s execution law unconstitutional Wednesday because its privacy provision is so strict that it that prevents inmates from finding out the source of drugs used in executions, even through the courts.

After condemned inmates gasped or complained they were “burning” during executions in January, inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner asked Oklahoma prison officials who was making the drugs that would kill them and whether the material was pure.

However, under state law, no one is allowed to disclose the source of drugs used in a lethal injection — even if an inmate sues and seeks the information as part of the discovery process. Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish said that prevents the inmates from exercising rights under the Constitution.

“I think that the secrecy statute is a violation of due process because access to the courts has been denied,” Parrish ruled.

The supply of drugs used in lethal injections has dried up in recent years as European manufacturers object to their use in executions and U.S. companies fear protests or boycotts.

Some death-penalty states have sought to buy or trade drugs with other states, and some have turned to compounding pharmacies that face less scrutiny from federal regulators. Many, like Oklahoma, made the process secret, too, to protect their suppliers.

Lockett and Warner’s challenge focused on what they called a “veil of secrecy.” They said they feared that if the drugs used to kill them weren’t pure, they could be conscious during their executions but unable to communicate. Knowing the source of the drugs could help them ensure the drugs were suitable, they said.

Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham warned the judge that she would be “treading into some deep water” if she ruled for the inmates. He said the inmates hadn’t proven they were at risk and that there was nothing they could do to stop their execution from being carried out anyway.

“This is all just speculation piled upon hyperbole,” Branham said. “What is the point of having the information if there’s nothing you can do with it?”

It wasn’t immediately clear when the inmates would receive the information. The state plans to appeal.

“I imagine the underlying decision will be stayed until the Oklahoma Supreme Court can weigh in on it,” said Seth Day, a lawyer for the men.

The inmates, who are to be executed next month, have stay requests pending before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. They have not challenged their convictions or death sentences. Lockett was found guilty in the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner was found guilty of the 1997 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter.

Lockett is scheduled to die April 22. Warner’s execution is April 29.

Oklahoma last week changed its protocols to allow five distinct methods of execution.

Three procedures use a three-drug protocol that starts with either sodium thiopental, pentobarbital or midazolam and ends with vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes inmates, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

One uses a megadose of pentobarbital, and the other uses midazolam with hydromorphone. That mixtures was used in the Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire, who made gasp-like sounds for several minutes before being pronounced dead after 26 minutes.

Inmate Michael Wilson died at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in January after a three-drug injection that started with pentobarbital. His final words were “I feel my whole body burning.”

Branham suggested in court Wednesday that Wilson’s lawyer may have coaxed him to complain in an effort to interfere with future executions.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
NDN Video
Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway Celebrities That We'd Like to Send to the Moon Spectacular lightning storm hits London Malaysian Flight Victim Was South Florida Grad Rory McIlroy on pace to break British Open records Officials Fear MH17 Site Now Tampered by Rebels Lowes employees repair Vietnam vet's wheelchair Widow of Staten Island man who died after NYPD takedown says he was unjustifiably targeted
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.