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April 21, 2014

Split Oklahoma Supreme Court stays executions based on drug secrecy concerns

As reported in this AP article, headlined "Oklahoma Court Stays Executions of 2 Inmates," a lack of transparency about execution drugs has prompted court action in the Sooner state. Here are the basics:

A sharply divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of two death row inmates who have challenged the secrecy surrounding the source of the state's lethal injection drugs.

In a 5-4 decision, the state's highest court issued the stays just one day before death row inmate Clayton Lockett was scheduled to be executed for the 1999 shooting death of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman. The second inmate, Charles Warner, was convicted in the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter. He was scheduled to die on April 29.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish last month struck down the state's execution law in a ruling that said the protocol that prevented the inmates from seeking information about the drugs used in lethal injections violated their rights under the state constitution....

On Friday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied the inmates' request for a stay in spite of a ruling by the Supreme Court earlier in the week that the appeals court had the authority to issue a stay or reschedule an execution.

"The 'rule of necessity' now demands that we step forward," the Supreme Court's majority opinion says. "We can deny jurisdiction, or we can leave the appellants with no access to the courts for resolution of their 'grave' constitutional claims.

"As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts, their constitutionally guaranteed measure."

The full opinions in this matter appear to be available at this link.

April 21, 2014 at 06:35 PM | Permalink

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Comments

//"their 'grave' constitutional claims"//
-- A pothead's assessment.
We don't draw & quarter, we don't
use the blood eagle.
These are convicted aggravated slayers whose
actions and juries confirmed their death
sentences in the 1990s!

Can't you dolts carry out the sentences by
simply recognising and destroying the childish
stall tactics of the Machiavellians?

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 21, 2014 9:20:36 PM

Lawless.

I must apologize to the "wise [sic] Latina." I had thought for sheer stupidity it was tough to top her idea that delays that were "but for" caused by the state were necessarily chargeable to the state for Speedy Trial purposes. I had also thought that for sheer lawlessness it was tough to top the idea that a criminal had a right, enforceable in a Rule 60 motion to rip open a habeas judgment, to the state's litigation position in an another case with arguably dissimilar factual circumstance.

Well SCOOK has topped her on both counts. I need not tarry with the preposterous idea that, by golly, jurisdiction is conferred because the meanie state won't tell some criminal where it got the goods. (When you read the opinion, you can almost hear the majority's collective foot stomp.) Suffice it to say that the learned judges in the majority have channeled their inner Sotomayor and Hickenlooper to produce a risible result.

I should take some comfort. These heinous killers are going to get the big jab, so I can take a little pleasure with the psychological torment they are undergoing with the on again/off again execution date.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 21, 2014 10:57:37 PM

Some in the past have noted the merits of the claim are lacking. But, this case appears from press reports and the linked opinion to be about what court should even decide the question. If this involved a range of questions, some wouldn't care or see it as a nuanced question of law of some interest in a specialty blog of this nature, but given the nature of the subject, other responses also arise.

As an example of what judges might rule here, one sentiment voiced here is that this issue is bogus because the drugs are tested, so concerns for secrecy is groundless given the high test that has to be met here. The article notes:

A request for a stay filed with the Supreme Court on Monday said the inmates "have received no certifications, testing data, medical opinions or other evidence to support the state's insistence that these drugs are safe, or to prove that they were acquired legally."

I don't know if this is true. But, IF TRUE, the "it's tested anyway" defense seems a tad less slam-dunk, especially if state rules as compared to federal rules (e.g., set forth in Baze) require more. The machinery and theater of death continues either way.


Posted by: Joe | Apr 22, 2014 9:39:05 AM

Law aside, I generally have the feeling that this is unnecessary prolonging the evident death of the inmates.

Posted by: Allison Williams | Apr 23, 2014 4:40:37 AM

In order to have standing, in order for a case to be justiciable, shouldn't there be a fact of damage, however small? Or is the death penalty "different"? Where any remote speculation suffices? Where is the evidence of ay suffering caused by secrecy? Indeed, the left has only personal attack, and physical intimidation to support its position. So it is highly foreseeable that revealing the name of a pharmacy will result in attacks on it by pro-criminal, abolitionist thugs. Pharmacy Doe should appeal for a stay of this decision. It has tons of standing and justiciability.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 24, 2014 1:39:39 AM

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