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Oklahoma's execution drug supply questioned by inmate's attorney

A lawyer representing death row inmate Michael Hooper is questioning whether 20 doses of a drug used in executions at Oklahoma's death row are approved for use in humans.
by Andrew Knittle Published: August 2, 2012

— A lawyer representing death row inmate Michael Hooper is questioning whether 20 newly acquired doses of a drug used in Oklahoma executions are intended for human use, court records show.

The attorney representing Hooper, who is scheduled to die Aug. 14, is asking a federal judge to delay the inmate's execution until the state Corrections Department provides more information about the 20 doses of pentobarbital it bought in July.

The drug had become extremely scarce in recent months and there were no known suppliers of the powerful sedative for human use, Hooper's attorney, Jim Drummond, wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

“Plaintiff has strong reasons to suspect that the 20 pentobarbital doses acquired by Oklahoma as announced on July 11, 2012, are veterinary drugs, and not pentobarbital that has been manufactured or approved for use in humans,” Drummond wrote. “Nembutal, the trade name for the pentobarbital that is FDA-approved for use in humans, is not available for executions because the manufacturer will not supply it and has a contractual guarantee that its distributors will not sell it to be used for executions.”

Drummond stated in the filing that pentobarbital, the first of three drugs used in Oklahoma executions, is often used by veterinarians to euthanize animals and that it's “not scarce and is easily obtained.”

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Corrections Department, would not say where the agency acquired the 20 doses.

Oklahoma law allows officials to keep secret any and all parties involved in a state-sanctioned execution, from the company who supplies the drugs to the medical staff who take part.

Randall Workman, warden of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, addressed the issue briefly in a sworn affidavit filed by attorneys representing the Corrections Department.

Workman has been the warden for 11 executions dating to 2008, records show.

“I affirm the drugs to be utilized in the scheduled execution of Michael Hooper were obtained by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections through lawful and proper means,” he states in the affidavit. “I know of no facts which would cause me to question the source, method of obtaining or quality of the drugs to be utilized in Michael Hooper's execution.”

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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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