Oklahoma reveals drugs it will use in executions
The news from the state’s lawyers comes 10 days after Oklahoma increased the number of ways it can carry out executions.
A spokesman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt and lawyers for inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner said Tuesday the state will inject the men with the sedative midazolam, plus pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which paralyzes victims and stops the heart. The state also revealed that the midazolam and pancuronium bromide to be used are from a compounding pharmacy, but the name of the pharmacy was not disclosed.
“That is confidential under state law,” said Pruitt spokesman Aaron Cooper.
The U.C. Berkeley School of Law’s Death Penalty Clinic confirmed that Florida is the only state to have used the combination of drugs to execute an inmate.
Warner’s lawyer, Madeline Cohen, said she has concerns about using the mixture for an execution, especially because the dosage of midazolam specified in Oklahoma’s protocol is much smaller than that used by Florida. Oklahoma has thus far provided no indication that medical professionals were consulted about the method, Cohen said.
“This combination of drugs has been used in a handful of executions in Florida and has raised questions because midazolam is not an anesthetic drug and it is therefore unclear whether it will adequately anesthetize a prisoner prior to the second and third drugs, which will unquestionably cause pain and suffering in an inadequately anesthetized person,” Cohen said.
She said the protocol “carries a substantial risk that the condemned prisoner will suffer a lingering and torturous death from suffocation, due to the effects of both midazolam and pancuronium bromide.”
The attorney general’s office wrote in a letter to Warner’s lawyer on Tuesday that although two of the new drugs come from a compounding pharmacy, a qualitative analysis has been ordered and will be completed approximately two weeks from Tuesday and will be provided to the inmates’ lawyers. The letter said the drugs “are stored in a manner consistent with proper storage and care.”
“Additionally, ODOC will disclose to you the certificate of analysis provided with the raw ingredients used to compound the midazolam and pancuronium bromide,” the state wrote.
Oklahoma and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty — stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.
Ten days ago, Oklahoma revised its execution procedures to give the Department of Corrections more options.
Lockett and Warner sued the state in February to learn more about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They and their lawyers claim the state has hidden its execution procedures, including what drugs would be used and the source of those drugs.
Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish ruled last week the inmates had a right to know about the drugs. Parrish also ruled that because she could not even order the state to reveal its supplier in court, the statute preserving the secrecy of the procedure is unconstitutional. The Oklahoma attorney general’s office says it will appeal the ruling.
Diane Clay, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said that although the confidentiality statute has been ruled unconstitutional by Parrish, the ruling is not final until all appeals are litigated.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections deferred all questions regarding execution protocols to the attorney general.
Lockett is scheduled to be executed April 22 for the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner is scheduled to be executed April 29 for the 1997 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter.
Lawyers for the inmates say they will seek a stay of execution from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for both men sometime this week.
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