McALESTER â€” Oklahoma officials executed a convicted murderer Thursday using a drug combination that includes a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals, after a nationwide shortage of a key ingredient forced the state to tinker with the usual formula.
John David Duty was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The 58-year-old, who was sentenced to die for strangling his cellmate nearly a decade ago, is believed to be the first person in the U.S. whose execution included the use of pentobarbital.
Strapped to a gurney and wearing an eye patch over his right eye, the heavyset Duty apologized to the family of his victim.
â€œI hope one day you'll be able to forgive me, not for my sake, but for your own,â€ Duty said. â€œThank you, Lord Jesus. I'm ready to go home.â€
He also acknowledged three of his attorneys and his brother and sister-in-law, all of whom witnessed the execution from an adjacent room. â€œYou've all been a blessing,â€ he told them.
The lethal drugs began to flow at 6:12 p.m., and Duty's breathing became labored one minute later. At 6:15 p.m., he appeared to stop breathing, and the color began to drain from his face.
â€œThere didn't appear to be any issues with the new drug,â€ Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said afterward.
Duty and two other death row inmates had challenged the state's decision to use pentobarbital, arguing it could be inhumane because a person could be paralyzed but still aware when a painful third drug is administered to stop the heart. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling against the other two inmates. Duty did not take part in the appeal.
Several states have been scrambling since Hospira Inc. â€” the only U.S. manufacturer of the barbiturate normally used in executions â€” said Thursday new batches of sodium thiopental could be available â€œin the first quarterâ€ of next year.
Oklahoma's law calls for the use of a fast-acting barbiturate to be administered first, which gave the state the flexibility to use pentobarbital, Massie said.
For his final meal, Duty requested a loaded double cheeseburger with mayonnaise; a foot-long Coney with cheese, mustard and extra onions; a cherry limeade and a large banana shake, Massie said.