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Method of future Oklahoma executions 'up in the air,' official says

by Andrew Knittle Published: May 3, 2012

With only a single cocktail of drugs used to execute Oklahoma inmates left in stock, state Corrections Department officials and the state attorney general's office admit there is no firm plan in place moving forward if more of the substance — or a suitable replacement — can't be found.

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Corrections Department, said the situation remains “fluid.”

“We have plans ... whether or not they'll come through is the question,” Massie said. “It's kind of fluid right now, kind of up in the air.”

Lethal injection is the only method of execution permitted under Oklahoma law, so options are limited.

Right now, there are no executions planned for the rest of the year.

Massie said the Corrections Department is looking to acquire more pentobarbital, which had been used to sedate animals before Oklahoma began using it in executions at the end of 2010.

Since December 2010, pentobarbital has been the first of three drugs injected into condemned prisoners, causing unconsciousness.

It also has become nearly impossible to get in recent months, Massie said, because its manufacturers won't sell it to prison systems intending to use it for executions.

Lundbeck, the Danish company that manufactured and distributed pentobarbital until the end of last year, issued several statements about the use of its product in state-sanctioned executions. The company has since divested “a portfolio of products,” including pentobarbital, to an American firm which has agreed not to sell it to prison systems.

“The use of pentobarbital to carry out the death penalty in U.S. prisons falls outside its approved indications,” the company said in a statement last year. “Lundbeck cannot assure the associated safety and efficacy profiles in such instances ... (and) does not promote pentobarbital for use as part of lethal injections and is doing everything in its power to put an end to this misuse.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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