The Department of Corrections said it will be using the same three-drug cocktail used before the executions were put on hold. So far, no word how the protocol will be different this time.
“The idea that the state could potentially go on an execution spree in the next couple months should be something all Oklahomans should be worried about,” said Tamya Cox-Toure, the Executive Director of the ACLU.
The ACLU said it was standing strong in their stance against capitol punishment, after execution dates for seven death row inmates were set Monday. The first is scheduled for the end of the month after a six year pause.
The controversy first unfolded in 2014, after the state injected Clayton Lockett with a new three-drug cocktail. The sedated 38-year-old woke up, twitching and convulsing on the table, before dying 43 minutes after injection of a heart attack.
An autopsy later showed a collapsed vein caused the drugs to leak into the tissue instead of the bloodstream.
Nine months later, Charles Warner was scheduled to be the next person the state would execute. However, a drug mix-up caused the 47-year-old to be given potassium acetate, rather than potassium chloride. Warner is reported to have said “My body is on fire” before dying 18 minutes later.
In 2017, The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission released a 300-plus page report, finding a series of flaws in Oklahoma’s execution protocols.
“Since the moratorim on executions, the state really hasn’t done anything to ensure and inspire our confidence,” said Cox-Toure. “That they aren’t going to perform any botched executions like the last two that were done.”
In 2020, DOC Director Scott Crow said, “Those drugs are actually verified at each step of the process. From the point in time that they are received from where we’re receiving them from, to every person that handles those. It’s validated to the point that the drugs are actually loaded into the syringes.”
Fast forward to September 2021, the state said it’s ready to resume executions using the same three-drug cocktail.
However, Representative Kevin McDugle, who called for an interim study on our state’s death penalty procedures last year, said he’s not bothered.
“The way that they’re looking to administer death, that particularly doesn’t bother me. I believe that we made some mistakes six years ago. They’ve gone through training and they’ve got new personnel now and I believe it will be administered properly however. My concerns are more with some of the people who actually may be innocent but we’re getting ready to put to death,” said McDugle.
The House Representative of District 12 has been fighting for Richard Glossip, another death-row inmate who McDugle believes is innocent. Glossip was minutes away from his set execution, then-Governor Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution after officials realized there was a mix-up regarding the drugs set to be used at his lethal injection.
Meanwhile, the ACLU said it’s time the state moves past capitol punishment.
“Executions in Oklahoma, they’re cruel, they’re inhumane. They’re reckless,” Cox-Toure said. “It’s definitely not based on how heinous the crime is. It’s really depending on what type of attorney they can afford, what the jury looks like, what the victim looks like, [and] what the defendant looks like.”
The state’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General John O’Connor told News 4 in a statement,
“The seven inmates to be scheduled for execution were convicted of heinous crimes. They either didn’t challenge the protocol or offer an alternative method of execution. These inmates’ appeals have lasted between 13 and 36 years in the courts. In 2016, two-thirds of Oklahomans voted to insert capital punishment into the constitution. My job as the state’s chief law enforcement officer is to enforce the laws of the state of Oklahoma.
Our thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of the victims of all death row inmates. They have endured the lengthy appeals process, while waiting decades for justice for horrific crimes their loved ones suffered. Further delay will only perpetuate that injustice.”
KFOR also reached out to the Department of Corrections to hear how the protocols will be different. We were told they could not tell us details on camera yet.