A court delayed the execution of two Oklahoma inmates Tuesday because the state has run out of the powerful drugs needed for lethal injections.
Clayton Derrell Lockett, 38, was scheduled to be put to death Thursday for murdering Stephanie Neiman, 19, in 1999 in Perry. Charles Frederick Warner, 46, was to be executed March 27 for raping and killing 11-month-old Adriana Waller in Oklahoma City in 1997.
Lockett and Warner have been seeking a stay of execution because the state won’t reveal where it is getting drugs used in lethal injections.
A brief filed by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office indicated the state has not been able to find an adequate supply of these drugs, so the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided Tuesday to delay Lockett’s execution to April 22 and Warner’s to April 29.
Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham noted the state Corrections Department said it was unable to acquire pentobarbital and vecuronium bromide, two of the three drugs Oklahoma uses in its lethal injection process.
The court cited the lack of drugs in its decision.
“The attorney general’s attestations give this court no confidence that the state will be able to procure the necessary drugs before the scheduled executions are to be carried out,” the court’s decision said.
“Based on this new information, we find the execution dates for appellants Lockett and Warner must be vacated and reset in order to allow the state of Oklahoma time to procure the necessary execution drugs or to adopt a new execution protocol.”
Lethal injection is the only form of execution legal in Oklahoma.
Advocates and lawyers across the nation speculate that many states, including Oklahoma, have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are regulated by states but not the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to get their lethal injection drugs.
Lockett and Warner are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ability to keep its source of lethal injection drugs secret. The inmates say not knowing the source means not knowing the quality of the drugs, which may be contaminated and cause them pain during the execution, violating constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Madeline Cohen, Warner’s federal public defender, spoke to Warner on Tuesday and said he was relieved to receive the stay. Cohen said the postponement until late April should give them enough time to have their case heard.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt called the decision a delay of justice.
“This delay is not about the facts of the case, nor does it seek to overturn the convictions of these two murderers. Instead, it’s about outside forces employing threats, intimidation and coercion to keep the state of Oklahoma from imposing the punishment handed down for these heinous crimes,” Pruitt said in an emailed statement.
“It’s not a matter of if these punishments will be carried out, but it is only a matter of when.”