Oklahoma death row inmate claims lack of backup drug could lead to painful death

Death row inmate Michael Hooper has filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Corrections Department, claiming the agency's limited supply of pentobarbital — one of three drugs used in Oklahoma executions — could lead to a painful death.
by Andrew Knittle Published: July 7, 2012
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— Death row inmate Michael Hooper has filed a lawsuit against the state Corrections Department, claiming the agency's limited supply of pentobarbital — one of three drugs used in Oklahoma executions — could lead to a painful death.

Hooper, convicted of killing a mother and her two children in 1993, is seeking a single-drug method, a practice that is growing in popularity as certain drugs used to execute condemned inmates are becoming nearly impossible to get.

He is scheduled to die Aug. 14.

A lawsuit filed by the inmate's attorney is seeking to halt Hooper's execution because the Corrections Department has only one dose of pentobarbital left, leaving it no backup supply of the drug.

The suit claims that Oklahoma's method of execution, which is done in three stages, “presents a substantial risk of serious harm to condemned inmates.”

“In fact, prisoners executed under protocols similar to Oklahoma's have suffered immense pain and grievous suffering as a result of maladministration of three-drug protocols,” Hooper's attorney wrote. “Because of the use of paralytic drugs ... there is a substantial risk that additional, unknown prisoners have experienced excruciating pain and suffering during their executions but were unable to manifest or communicate their distress because they were immobilized.”

The lawsuit draws attention to past executions in Oklahoma to illustrate problems with the state's protocol.

Court documents refer to the May 1997 execution of Scott Carpenter, who reportedly “turned a deep shade of blue ... let out a guttural moan, gasped for breath and convulsed violently, stretching the belt that strapped his body to the table as his body arched upward.”

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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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BACK GROUND

If Michael Hooper is executed, he will be the 100th inmate put to death by lethal injection in Oklahoma — and the fourth this year. Overall, the state has executed 182 prisoners, all but one by electric chair and lethal injection. In June 1936, Arthur Gooch was executed by hanging after spending less than a year on death row.

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