Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2 Okla. inmates ask court to delay executions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two Oklahoma death row inmates asked an appeals court Monday to delay their executions until a lawsuit challenging the state's refusal to reveal where it gets its execution drugs can be settled.
Lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner filed the request with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The request argues that although the state Department of Corrections has revealed what drugs it plans to use in the executions, the agency has yet to identify the source of the drugs. Lockett is set to be executed April 22, and Warner on April 29.
In a letter to the inmates' attorneys on Friday, the state reiterated that it would be using the three-drug combination of midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride during the lethal injections. But the state said the midazolam would be the only drug from a compounding pharmacy, a change from its previous plan to use two compounded drugs. The name of the compounding pharmacy wasn't disclosed.
"(The state has) advised Plaintiffs only that they will be using a novel execution method, involving a drug combination never before used in an Oklahoma execution, in dosages never before used in any execution in this country, and including compounded medicines from undisclosed sources," the attorneys wrote. "Plaintiffs have no assurance that this will be the last change Defendants decide to make, apparently in their unilateral discretion, as Plaintiffs' executions approach."
Florida has used the same three-drug combination in past executions, though with a higher dosage of midazolam. Oklahoma prison officials said they consulted with experts who said a lower dose of midazolam was appropriate.
The Attorney General's Office didn't immediately return an email and phone message seeking comment Monday.
Oklahoma adopted a new, five-option execution procedure on March 21. Lawyers for the inmates say that leaves them inadequate time to evaluate the newly introduced methods to ensure that their clients will not die in an unconstitutionally cruel or unusual manner.
They also note that compounding pharmacies are not as regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as other pharmacies.
"As (we) have previously explained to this Court, compounded medications are under-regulated and are prepared under a wide range of circumstances," the lawyers wrote. "As a result, they carry significant risks of contamination, dilution, and counterfeiting."
Lockett and Warner, the inmates set for execution this month, sued the state in February over what they called a "veil of secrecy" surrounding execution protocols and the origins of the drugs used in lethal injections. Although the state has released the method of execution they intend to use and the expiration dates of the drugs, lawyers still want to know where the drugs are coming from.
"Mr. Lockett's and Mr. Warner's concerns are based on the fact that in January of this year, the execution of Oklahoma prisoner Michael Wilson appeared to be botched due to the use of contaminated, compounded drugs," said Madeline Cohen, a lawyer for Warner. "Mr. Wilson's last words, uttered a few seconds after he was injected with lethal drugs, were 'I feel my whole body burning.'"
Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish ruled in March that the state's secrecy policy, which did not even allow the state to disclose the source of the drugs in court, was unconstitutional. The attorney general's office has appealed that ruling, according to Monday's filing, and has indicated the executions will happen as scheduled unless a stay is ordered.
The inmates' executions have already been pushed back one month due to the ongoing litigation in this case.
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