OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Monday, a pharmacology professor and pathologist who currently works as an autopsy director, testified in a trial that is challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection cocktail.
On Monday, testimony began in a trial that is challenging whether Oklahoma’s execution protocol is a cruel and unusual form of punishment.
Last year, during the execution of 60-year-old John Marion Grant, the state’s first execution in nearly seven years, media witnesses said Grant vomited and convulsed when the first drug in Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection cocktail, Midazolam, which is a sedative, was administered.
According to the autopsy report for Grant, he inhaled his own vomit, had heavy lungs and bleeding in the tongue.
During testimony on Monday at trial, attorneys for the two dozen inmates who filed the lawsuit called a professor of pharmacology, Dr. Craig Stevens, to the stand.
He testified that Midazolam is not a useful drug as the first in the cocktail because it doesn’t prevent pain and suffering from the second and third drugs.
Dr. Stevens said even though it’s a 500 mg dose, no amount of Midazolam can shield that pain. He called it torturous.
While the state’s last three executions were described by witnesses as peaceful and uneventful, Dr. Stevens testified that in some cases, there may be pain that witnesses can’t see.
During cross examination, attorneys for the state brought up a ruling from the Mississippi Supreme Court, where Stevens’ theory about Midazolam was called a “sham.”
Also on Monday, the plaintiffs called a pathologist who currently works as an autopsy director for a Mayo Clinic in Florida to the stand.
He talked about a long list of executions from all over the country where over 20 inmates who had the same three-drug cocktail all experienced heavy lungs and many of them, pulmonary edema.
Testimony resumes Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.