OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Execution dates have been set for three Oklahoma death-row inmates even as state officials continue to investigate what went wrong during a botched execution in April.
Death row inmates Charles Frederick Warner, Richard Eugene Glossip and John Marion Grant are scheduled to die by lethal injection within a four-week period later this year in spite of a federal lawsuit they and 18 other death row inmates have filed that challenges the way the state plans to execute them.
Attorneys for the inmates said they believe it is imprudent for the state to schedule executions when there is so much uncertainty about the protocols and lethal drugs that will be used — especially after trouble with executions here and elsewhere.
Regardless of how people feel about the death penalty, “hardly anyone believes that we ought to torture people to death in order to accomplish it,” said Oklahoma City attorney Mark Henricksen, who represents Glossip in the federal lawsuit.
Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Phoenix said uncertainties about Oklahoma’s method of executing condemned inmates will remain until an investigation into the state’s botched April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett is complete.
“At this point we just don’t have all the information,” said Baich, who represents Oklahoma death row inmate Tremane Wood in the lawsuit. “I think it’s important for the investigation to run its course, for the results to be made public, and then decisions about how the state should proceed.”
Lockett, who was executed using a new three-drug method, writhed on the gurney, moaned and clenched his teeth for several minutes.
His execution was finally halted after a doctor determined there was a problem with a single IV inserted into Lockett’s groin.
Officials at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester have said Lockett’s vein collapsed during the lethal injection process, though a full report on his death hasn’t been released.
Lockett was pronounced dead about 43 minutes after his execution began; the state said he died of a heart attack after his execution was stopped.
Lockett’s execution was the first time Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam as the first in its three-drug combination.
Midazolam is the same drug used in the execution last month of Arizona death-row inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood, who gasped for nearly two hours before he died, and the January execution of Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire, who snorted and gasped for 26 minutes before dying.
Governors in each state ordered a review of their protocols following the executions.
But Baich said it is uncertain if the investigation into Lockett’s execution will take into account the findings in the other states.
“Arizona hasn’t even started its investigation,” he said. “It’s going to be important for the process to be transparent.”
The investigation into Lockett’s execution is being headed by state Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson.
A spokesman, Capt. George Brown of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said the investigation is ongoing and no date has been set for it to be delivered to Gov. Mary Fallin, who ordered it.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said that no execution will take place in the state until that investigation is complete.
“Our duty — to the citizens of this state and the families of the victims — is to ensure punishments handed down by a jury are carried out lawfully and as such we continue to ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates,” Pruitt said in a statement to The Associated Press.
“If it becomes necessary to seek another delay of scheduled executions to allow completion of that review, we will address the issue at that time,” the attorney general said.
The death row inmates’ lawsuit asks a judge to block any attempt to execute them using the state’s current lethal injection protocols, which it claims presents a risk of severe pain and suffering. The state says the lawsuit is premature because its protocols are under review and subject to change.
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