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October 16, 2015

Oklahoma AG officially agrees not to seek state executions anytime soon

As reported in this new local piece, headlined "All executions may be put on hold until 2016, court documents show," a new court filing suggests Oklahoma now has another de facto temporary moratorium on executions in place. Here is why:

Attorneys for death row inmates and the Oklahoma attorney general's office jointly filed a motion in federal court early Friday morning requesting that executions and a legal challenge to the state's death penalty be put on hold. If granted, the request would mean no executions would take place in Oklahoma until 2016, at the earliest.

All of Oklahoma's scheduled executions were put on hold last month after the execution of inmate Richard Glossip was halted when corrections officials noticed they'd received the wrong drug for the procedure. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the indefinite stay made it unnecessary to litigate challenges to the state's execution protocol brought by Glossip's attorneys.

“As I have previously stated, my office is conducting a full and thorough investigation into all aspects of the Department of Corrections' handling of executions," Pruitt said. "The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted the state's request for an indefinite stay of all scheduled executions. My office does not plan to ask the court to set an execution date until the conclusion of its investigation."

In the filing, both parties agree the state should not seek any new execution dates until all on-going federal and state investigations into Oklahoma's death penalty have been completed, any investigations and changes to protocol are made available to the extent they are public, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is able to comply with its execution protocol.

A multicounty grand jury will hear testimony on Tuesday from Corrections Department Director Robert Patton and other officials as part of a state investigation, and the attorney general's office is conducting an internal inquiry into recent lethal drug mix-ups.

Some recent prior posts:

October 16, 2015 at 01:41 PM | Permalink


I thought OK was one of the states that had passed a neutral gas option if thge grugs became unavailable.

With the medical testimony that what the state ordered and what was delivered have the same bio-activity profile I doubt grand jury hearings are going to result in any charges. Of course if the delivered drug is going to remain available while the protocol compound is not it would seem a simple matter to add it to the protocol as an option.

I really don't see how there is room for a federal investigation here. Condemned inmates have a right to an execution that is free from unnecessary pain, that was apparently what the last OK condemned received.

Does the condemned have a right to know even the gross outline of the execution method that will be used? Say that a state has an option between lethal injection, neutral gas and firing squad, and assume that all three have withstood court challenges. Now imagine that the warden is to pick which of the three will actually be used, and make that choice the day of the execution. Is that sort of mental uncertainty within the umbrella of serious risk of pain or suffering that SCOTUS would not countenance?

Or how about the Japanese practice of not informing the condemned that their time has arrived until very shortly before the execution?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 17, 2015 2:02:43 AM

Interesting article on the alternatives to lethal injection:


Sotomayor in her dissent brought up the firing squad. That seems to be the alternative favored by many who don't like the death penalty but figure this is the lesser evil. Nitrogen gas is still pretty novel, not talked about much. A few are starting to support it. A problem being that it is novel and "unusual" though some argue it is not "cruel." The article addresses some who note that it is not truly unusual. Myself, history suggests to me that every "better option" to kill tends to be a lot less promising in practice.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 18, 2015 1:07:56 PM

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