Grand jury completes scathing report on Department of Corrections, recommends nitrogen gas as new execution method

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OKLAHOMA - A state grand jury released a scathing investigation into the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

The investigation was sparked by the execution of Charles Warner.

That was the first execution where the Department of Corrections used the wrong drug.

That was last January.

Then, in September, the wrong drug was almost used again on Richard Glossip.

The 106 page report details everything that went wrong.

The grand jury found a long list of people from the state penitentiary to the governor’s office failed to do their jobs.

The seven month investigation came to a close Thursday.

The grand jury did not indict anyone in connection with what’s happened at the Department of Corrections, but they point out many things weren’t right in 2015.

In January 2015, the execution of Warner took 18 minutes and gained international attention when he said his body was on fire.

An autopsy later showed potassium acetate was used to stop his heart, not potassium chloride, which is mandated under state protocol.

Then came the scheduled execution of Glossip.

According to the grand jury report, on the day of Glossip’s scheduled execution, DOC’s attorney contacted the attorney general and the governor’s office.

The governor’s top attorney reportedly said potassium chloride and potassium acetate were basically one in the same, telling the deputy attorney general to “Google it.”

Court documents show the grand jury found the director of the Department of Corrections, Robert Patton, orally modified the execution protocol without authority, the pharmacist ordered the wrong execution drugs, the department's general counsel failed to inventory the execution drugs as mandated by the state and the department's office of inspector general failed to inspect the drugs while transporting them into the state penitentiary.

The grand jury also found the warden failed to notify anyone at DOC potassium acetate had been received, the death row section chief failed to observe DOC has received the wrong execution drugs, the IV team failed to observe DOC received the wrong execution drug and the governor's general counsel, Steve Mullins, advocated DOC proceed with the Glossip execution using potassium acetate.

“I think what it tells us is we are kill happy here in the state of Oklahoma and, anytime somebody interferes with that, we kind of overlook things and be negligent in our attempt to get people executed,” said legal analyst David McKenzie.

When the grand jury report was presented in court Thursday, the judge said "it's time to get the monkey business at the department of corrections under control."

Patton, warden Anita Trammell and Mullins have all resigned.

As far as the execution drugs, the grand jury did recommend we change our execution method to nitrogen hypoxia.

AG Scott Pruitt said he will work with the governor and the legislature to consider that:

“Last fall, when a problem with the lethal injection protocol of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections occurred, I promised the people of Oklahoma that my office would conduct a full and complete investigation into the Department of Correction’s (DOC) handling of the matter. We had a responsibility to find out exactly what happened, and we have.

There is no more serious exercise of state authority than carrying out a death sentence. That profound responsibility should be undertaken with precision and solemnity. There are no winners and losers in this process. Our paramount objective must be to ensure that justice is done, legally, constitutionally and with careful cognizance to the rights of the victims of these crimes and the suffering their families have endured.

Today, I regret to advise the citizens of Oklahoma that the Department of Corrections failed to do its job. As is evident in the report from the multicounty grand jury, a number of individuals responsible for carrying out the execution process were careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures that were intended to guard against the very mistakes that occurred.

The report clearly details the mistakes that were made and sets out a series of concise recommendations for ensuring that these mistakes are avoided in the future.

When the state fails to do its job in carrying out an execution, the ability to dispense justice is impaired for all. This must never happen again.

With the Department of Corrections now under the leadership of former FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, I am confident that the changes to the execution protocol the multicounty grand jury has recommended will be implemented with diligence and dispatch. And I have told him he has my full and complete support in this regard.

It is important to note that the multicounty grand jury has recommended the state consider the advisability of adopting nitrogen hypoxia as the state’s execution protocol. I look forward to working with the Governor and the Oklahoma Legislature in the careful and deliberate consideration and review of this proposal.

Lastly, my thanks are with the men and women serving on the multicounty grand jury who spent countless hours listening to testimony and reviewing evidence. They were charged not to reach a preconceived outcome in this inquiry but rather to review the evidence and listen to the sworn testimony and determine the truth about what happened here. They have done their job, wisely and well, and I appreciate their service.”

Governor Mary Fallin has indicated state officials plan to move forward with executions in Oklahoma:

“I want to thank Attorney General Scott Pruitt, his staff and the grand jurors for their time and effort on this important matter. At my direction, my office cooperated with the grand jury’s investigation in all respects. Because I just received the report, I will need time to analyze it. 

When the state of Oklahoma carries out the death penalty, we must ensure that the process is appropriate and in full compliance with the law. It is imperative that Oklahoma be able to manage the execution process properly. With new management at the Department of Corrections, led by Interim Director Joe Allbaugh, I am confident we can move forward with a process that complies with the applicable policies, protocols and legal requirements.”

NewChannel 4 spoke with Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, Thursday evening:

“From a review of the Grand Jury Report it is apparent that Oklahoma’s flawed system nearly caused the execution of an innocent man, Richard Glossip. 

Since Mark Olive and I joined Richard’s legal team, it has become clear that a thorough investigation into this case was never conducted. Coupled with the fact that in the intervening years since Richard’s original trial new witnesses have come forward, our investigation casts significant doubt on the validity of Richard’s original conviction and provides even more evidence of innocence. 

We are continuing to investigate Richard’s case to identify evidence that we are confident will shed further light on the facts of this case and prove Richard’s innocence. As we have said from the beginning, regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, we can all agree that no one wants to execute an innocent man.”