The state of Oklahoma could be set for its first double execution in nearly 80 years.
After the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday dissolved a stay of execution it had issued earlier in the week in a pair of death penalty cases, the governor’s office announced Thursday the state will proceed with both executions next week.
Convicted murderers Clayton Derrell Lockett, 38, and Charles Frederick Warner, 46, now are scheduled to be executed Tuesday at the state penitentiary in McAlester, Gov. Mary Fallin announced.
“The defendants had their day in court,” Fallin said in a statement. “The court has made a decision. Two men that do not contest their guilt in heinous murders will now face justice, and the families and friends of their victims will now have closure.”
While the state Corrections Department has executed two inmates in the same week several times in recent history, it has not executed more than one person on the same day since June 11, 1937. On that day, the state used the electric chair to execute convicted murderers Charlie Sands and Leon Siler.
Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said officials are not clear at this point exactly when in the day each execution will take place.
“We are planning for any eventuality,” Massie said.
Executions in Oklahoma are typically performed at 6 p.m., although the Corrections Department is not legally bound to perform executions at any specific time of the day.
Additionally, Massie said Corrections officials cannot confirm both executions will take place on Tuesday.
“We’re having those discussions,” Massie said. He would not elaborate on whether other state agencies or offices were involved in those discussions.
Massie said no matter when the inmates are put to death, the state plans to use the mixture of the manufactured drugs midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride that the attorney general has recommended.
This week, a lawyer for the two inmates filed a petition at both Oklahoma County District Court and the state Supreme Court arguing that when Lockett and Warner were sentenced, state statutes called for execution by “ultra-short acting barbiturate,” and the proposed lethal cocktail for Tuesday’s executions should not be used, since midazolam is a non-barbiturate. That petition has been transferred to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Lockett was scheduled to be executed Tuesday after the state Court of Criminal Appeals refused to grant a stay in his case. In an order Monday, the state Supreme Court for the first time in state history stepped in to block both executions.
The unusual move set up what state leaders called a judicial crisis, with the state Supreme Court’s stay contradicting the Court of Criminals Appeals decision that the executions should go forward. The Supreme Court by law has jurisdiction over civil cases and does not normally get involved in criminal appeals.
That court’s stay led Fallin to issue her own stay of execution on Tuesday in Lockett’s case. Fallin called the state Supreme Court’s move an overreach and ordered Lockett’s execution delayed one week. Her order made no mention of Warner.
In March, Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish agreed with the two murderers that a law allowing the state to keep its source of lethal injection drugs secret was unconstitutional. The judge transferred the stay of execution request to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Late Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled the two inmates do not have a right to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them. That ruling cleared the way for the court’s stay to be dissolved.
Lockett was convicted of the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman, 19, in Perry. Lockett shot Neiman twice with a shotgun before having an accomplice, Shawn Mathis, bury her alive.
Warner was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of his live-in girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter, Adrianna Waller, in 1997.