The death penalty is coming off the books in more and more states. We don't anticipate that happening any time soon in Oklahoma, although carrying out the punishment could become a problem.
The state has in stock only one of the three-drug cocktails it uses in executions. One part of that mixture is the drug pentobarbital, which causes unconsciousness. But pentobarbital has become nigh impossible to get ahold of because the manufacturer no longer sells it to prison systems that intend to use it in executions.
Companies have become loath to the idea of their product being used in this way. That is what forced Oklahoma to begin using pentobarbital in the first place in 2010 — makers of sodium thiopental, which had been used for years, stopped selling it to prison systems.
The Department of Corrections has no executions planned for the remainder of this year, which gives the agency some time to try to find a solution. A spokesman for DOC says there is some pentobarbital available in the marketplace, “it's just a question of whether we can get it.” The agency is considering all options, he said, including trying to get more sodium thiopental.
If the drug supply dries up — perhaps when is more accurate — Oklahoma could be forced to consider using a firing squad. Our state constitution allows the use of an electric chair or firing squad if lethal injection is declared unconstitutional. We don't have an electric chair and aren't likely to go shopping for one. That would leave the firing squad, which was an option for a time in Utah but now isn't used by any state.
With a firing squad, the Department of Corrections wouldn't have to worry about running out of bullets. Instead, handling the accompanying outcry would become the agency's biggest concern.