MCALESTER, Okla. – Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections say a miscommunication between the department and a provider of execution drugs is to blame for a high-profile execution being stopped earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Richard Glossip was scheduled to be put to death for the murder of Barry Van Treese in 1997.
However, officials say they were forced to stay his execution when they realized they did not have the proper drugs needed for the procedure.
On Thursday, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections answered questions regarding the mix-up.
“The protocol worked. I said, ‘Stop,’ that’s what the protocol’s supposed to do. Nothing failed in the protocol yesterday,” said Robert Patton, the director of ODOC.
Robert Patton said the drugs were received on Wednesday in a sealed package. Once they realized they were given potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, he says they began notifying the Oklahoma attorney general’s office and the governor.
“Contact was immediately made to the provider, whose professional opinion was that potassium acetate is medically interchangeable with potassium chloride,” said Patton.
Patton says the pharmacist could not gain access to potassium chloride and simply filled the order for potassium acetate instead.
“The provider believed it was an acceptable substitution,” Patton said on Thursday during a news conference.
He says the provider told them that the compound is almost identical to potassium chloride.
He says the department was not notified of the change and they didn’t find out about the change until they opened the box Wednesday afternoon.
“It is an acceptable alternative to that particular drug,” Patton said, regarding why the pharmacist did not notify any officials of the switch.
However, Patton says using the drug would have violated the state’s execution protocol, so he was forced to put a stop to it.
Patton says the department does not have the state or federal authority to keep the drugs at the facility, which means they have to be shipped in before every execution.
Glossip’s execution has been stayed numerous times, including once just two weeks ago.
When asked why those drugs weren’t used for this execution once they learned of the mix-up, Patton says the sealed package for that execution was never opened and was returned to the facility once a stay was granted.
Patton stressed that transparency is a priority for him in Oklahoma’s execution protocol.
He says they were not trying to complete the execution with a different drug.
“I even heard some yesterday out there saying, ‘Well, the department was trying to move forward with this drug, you know, without notifying us about it.’ It’s just crap! We stopped it,” said Patton.
And he says it was the toughest 15 minutes of his life when he had to explain what happened to Barry Van Treese’s family.
“To look them in the face and tell them, ‘If you want to be angry, be angry at me because I am the one that stopped this,” said Patton.
Patton would not disclose the drug company they use or how long they’ve been using them.
He said they are currently working to find the correct drug, potassium chloride.
Glossip’s execution was rescheduled for Nov. 6.
However, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has called for a halt to all executions at this time.