A federal judge issued a stay of execution hours before an Oklahoma death row inmate was scheduled for lethal injection Tuesday.
The stay was issued after defense attorneys raised concerns about the sedative to be injected. It was the third stay of execution for Jeffrey David Matthews, 38.
Matthews, of Purcell, was convicted of killing Otis Earl Short, 77, and assaulting Short's wife, Minnie Delores Short, whose throat was slashed, during a 1994 McClain County burglary.
The Shorts' granddaughter, Carol Cowan, said nine family members were driving to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Tuesday to witness the execution when they received a phone call regarding the latest stay.
"We were dreading it (the execution), yet we were hoping today to finally get some closure," Cowan said. "Every time there's a stay, it's like it's all been opened up again."
Cowan said Tuesday would have been the 71st wedding anniversary for Otis and Minnie Short.
Minnie Short told the family before she died about seven years ago that "You kids need to see that it's carried through for me," Cowan said.
"Well, we're still here, and we're still going on with it," Cowan said.
Third stay granted
Gov. Brad Henry has granted two stays of execution to give defense attorneys time to examine fingerprint evidence. Matthews was scheduled for execution on June 17 and again on July 20.
Federal Judge Stephen P. Friot in Oklahoma City issued the third stay Tuesday after Matthews joined in a lawsuit filed by another death row inmate and challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty.
Matthews' attorneys objected to the Corrections Department's substitution of one of the drugs used in Oklahoma's execution process.
The department wanted to substitute Brevital, a form of methohexital sodium, for sodium thiopental, which is normally used for sedation. During lethal injection, the sedative is administered first, followed by a drug that stops breathing and then a drug that stops the heart.
The Corrections Department was substituting the sedative because of worries about the purity of thiopental on hand, department spokesman Jerry Massie said.