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Oklahoma judge tosses state execution law

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that the state's execution law is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow inmates access to the court system.

BAILEY ELISE McBRIDE, Associated Press Modified: March 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm •  Published: March 26, 2014

“This is all just speculation piled upon hyperbole,” Branham said. “What is the point of having the information if there’s nothing you can do with it?”

It wasn’t immediately clear when the inmates would receive the information. The state plans to appeal.

“I imagine the underlying decision will be stayed until the Oklahoma Supreme Court can weigh in on it,” said Seth Day, a lawyer for the men.

The inmates, who are to be executed next month, have stay requests pending before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. They have not challenged their convictions or death sentences. Lockett was found guilty in the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner was found guilty of the 1997 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter.

Lockett is scheduled to die April 22. Warner’s execution is April 29.

Oklahoma last week changed its protocols to allow five distinct methods of execution.

Three procedures use a three-drug protocol that starts with either sodium thiopental, pentobarbital or midazolam and ends with vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes inmates, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

One uses a megadose of pentobarbital, and the other uses midazolam with hydromorphone. That mixtures was used in the Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire, who made gasp-like sounds for several minutes before being pronounced dead after 26 minutes.

Inmate Michael Wilson died at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in January after a three-drug injection that started with pentobarbital. His final words were “I feel my whole body burning.”

Branham suggested in court Wednesday that Wilson’s lawyer may have coaxed him to complain in an effort to interfere with future executions.