Oklahoma death row inmates sue over drugs' secrecy

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 26, 2014 at 5:27 pm •  Published: February 26, 2014
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two Oklahoma death row inmates scheduled to be executed next month sued state corrections officials Wednesday for details about the drugs that will be used to execute them, including their source.

Under state law, no one may disclose who provides Oklahoma with the three drugs it uses to execute condemned prisoners. Lawyers for Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett fear the men could suffer severe pain if Oklahoma is allowed to maintain a "veil of secrecy."

"Plaintiffs have no means to determine the purity of the drug which may be used to execute them, and whether that drug is contaminated with either particulate foreign matter or a microbial biohazard that could lead to a severe allergic reaction upon injection," the lawyers wrote in their state court lawsuit.

Lockett is scheduled to be executed March 20 for the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner is set to be executed on March 27 for the 1997 death of his girlfriend's 11-month-old daughter. The men seek a restraining order that would halt their executions. A hearing on that will be held Tuesday before District Judge Patricia Parrish in Oklahoma City; clemency hearings set for this week and next week remained on the Parole and Pardon Board's schedule Wednesday. .

Oklahoma shields its drug suppliers' identities to protect them from potential reprisal, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said Wednesday. He said the agency was aware of the inmates' lawsuit but declined to comment. Diane Clay, director of communications for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the office had received the petition and is reviewing it.

"We can confirm that Oklahoma is in compliance with the law," Clay said.

Oklahoma and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty — stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Under previous protocol, inmates continuously received a sedative while paralytic drugs actually killed them. As supplies dried up, Oklahoma dropped its requirement that inmates receive a sedative continuously and began to shield what it would disclose.

"Thus, at the same time that defendants are turning to untested and untried execution methods, they are also shielding information about the execution methods from meaningful disclosure or scrutiny," the lawyers wrote. They also claim the executions should be stopped because the Department of Corrections purportedly changed the protocol without sufficient notice to the public.

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