UPDATE: Court denies stay of execution requests for inmates questioning death drugs

Clayton Lockett, left, and Charles Warner, right, are suing the state over its lethal injection process.

Clayton Lockett, left, and Charles Warner, right, are suing the state over its lethal injection process.

UPDATE 4/09/14: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied Grant Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner stays of execution request.

Wednesday morning the court stated it could not stop the executions because the men are not challenging their convictions, but rather the drugs that will be used to execute them.

The state says it will execute Lockett using a new three-drug cocktail April 22. Warner is scheduled to die April 29.

A few weeks ago an Oklahoma County Judge ruled in Lockett and Warner’s favor, deciding the manufacturer of the drugs that will be used to kill them must be revealed to determine if the drugs are safe, despite a state law keeping the drug source secret.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is appealing that decision, but he said last week the state will likely execute Lockett without revealing its drug source before the appeal is heard.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Two convicted murderers are asking the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals to delay their executions until they know more about the drugs that will be used to kill them.

Earlier this year, 38-year-old Clayton Lockett  and 46-year-old Charles Warner sued the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

An Oklahoma County district judge ruled in the death-row inmates’ favor, saying a state law that keeps the provider of execution drugs a secret is unconstitutional.

The Oklahoma attorney general still has not revealed the manufacturer of the lethal injection drugs because his office plans to appeal that decision.

However, the men are scheduled for execution before the appeal filing date.

Last week, Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the state will execute the men unless a stay of execution is issued, despite the ongoing court battle with the men.

“Justice has been delayed,” said Pruitt. “Justice has been denied because of a perceived problem with the fact that we don’t provide the source of our drugs.”

He argues the law is a necessity because it allows drug suppliers to remain anonymous.

The secrecy law was adopted in 2011 when lethal injection drugs became scarce.

Many European suppliers refuse to sell the drugs because of their objections to capital punishment, and U.S. manufacturers fear protests and boycotts if they are identified.

Since then, Oklahoma has started using compounding pharmacies to issue the drugs, which are scarcely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Attorneys for the inmates said because the drugs are not FDA-approved, there is no way to guarantee their safety, citing the case of Oklahoma inmate Michael Lee Wilson, who said, “I can feel my whole body burning,” after being injected with drugs from a compounding pharmacy.

Both Lockett and Warner’s executions were originally scheduled for March, but the state moved the dates to April 22 and April 29, respectively, because it could not obtain the drugs it needed to kill them.

In response to the drug shortage under the old lethal injection protocol, the state changed its execution procedure and now allows five different drug cocktails.

Pruitt said this gives the state the ability to “pivot” when lethal injection drugs are hard to find.

Last week, he also said the state will have an independent lab test the execution drugs manufactured by the compounding pharmacy for purity, ensuring they are safe for use.

Though it is not mandated by the state’s execution protocol, he said he will recommend that ODOC releases the lab’s certification to the public in all future executions.

Pruitt said if the drug’s safety is guaranteed, the only reason to want the manufacturer identified would be to cause controversy.

His office cites an emailed bomb threat to an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy after it was identified as supplying drugs for Oklahoma executions.

Attorneys for Lockett and Warner argue that the certification still does not guarantee the drugs are safe for use because the state is also refusing to identify the independent testing lab.

Furthermore, the attorneys argue, the new drug cocktail that state will use to kill Lockett has never been used before.

“The five combinations include at least four that would require compounded medicines, which carry significant risks of contamination, dilution, and counterfeiting,” Lockett and Warner’s attorneys wrote in the application for a stay of execution. “They also include two methods that have never been used in Oklahoma, and involve novel drug combinations and dosages never before used in any execution in this country. To say that this new protocol raises concerns about the safety and efficacy of the specified methods would be an understatement.”

A date to hear the request for stays of execution has not yet been set.