Federal judge denies stay of 5 death row inmates in Oklahoma

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John Grant is due to be executed Thursday for the 1998 murder of prison guard Gay Carter. File photo Courtesy of Oklahoma Corrections

October 26 (UPI) – A federal judge refused to stay the execution of five death row inmates from Oklahoma.

Monday’s decision means Oklahoma is set to proceed with its first execution in six years for John Grant, 60, on Thursday. The other four inmates named in the stay request were Julius Jones (November 18), Donald Grant (January 27), Gilbert Postelle (February 17) and Wade Lay (January 6).

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot of the Western District of Oklahoma denied the preliminary injunction despite the five prisoners being reinstated in a lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol earlier this month.

Dale Baich, an attorney for prisoners, said former Attorney General Mike Hunter promised not to execute the plaintiffs involved in the trial while the case was pending in district court. The trial is expected to begin in February.

“The district court itself has recognized serious questions as to whether Oklahoma’s execution proceedings will cause prisoners unconstitutional pain and suffering,” Baich said in a statement Monday. “With a trial on this same issue set to begin in February, executions should not take place. We will be asking the 10th Circuit to review the district court’s decision and stay Mr Grant’s planned execution on Thursday, as well as those that are planned. the coming months. ”

The state announced on February 13, 2020 that it plans to resume executions almost six years after the use of an incorrect drug led to the botched execution of a convicted murderer.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said after considering the possibility of using nitrogen gas to carry out the executions, the state has now found a “reliable supply of drugs” to resume the lethal injections.

Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol came under intense scrutiny in 2014 when Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack amid complications during his execution.

Autopsy reports released a year later indicated that Oklahoma Corrections had used the wrong drug – potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride – in the process. Lockett complained of a burning sensation and attempted to lift his head and speak after medics said he was unconscious.

The same incorrect drug was delivered to correctional officers for use in the 2015 scheduled execution of Richard Glossip. Former Governor Mary Ballin called off Glossip’s execution with a last-minute indefinite stay after learning of the discrepancy.

Oklahoma has carried out only one other execution since that of Lockett, that of Charles Warner in January 2015. He was suspended for nine months due to the previous botched lethal injection.

Since then, the state has imposed an unofficial moratorium on executions as it attempts to secure a supply of lethal injecting drugs. Oklahoma uses a three-drug cocktail consisting of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride.

Executions in the United States have undergone changes in recent years after states began to run out of pentobarbital, an essential lethal injection drug. The European Union voted in 2011 to ban the sale of the drug and seven other barbiturates in the United States for the purpose of torture or execution. Other drug companies have refused to sell drugs for lethal injection, and some will only sell if their names are kept confidential.

Now states are forced to use new drug cocktails, scramble to replenish their drug stocks, and review their lethal injection policies.

In 2018, the Oklahoma attorney general’s office announced it would use nitrogen gas inhalation as the primary method of execution. Officials, however, had difficulty find a manufacturer to sell a gas delivery method for execution. Additionally, state law states that nitrogen hypoxia can only be used for executions if drugs for lethal injections are not available.

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