Oklahoma plans to execute 25 prisoners in the next 29 months

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Oklahoma plans to execute 25 prisoners over the next 29 months after ending a moratorium spurred by botched lethal injections and legal battles over how it kills death row inmates.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday set execution dates for six prisoners in response to a request from Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor (right) for mid-June . The court then added dates for 19 additional prisoners for a total representing more than half of the state’s 44 death row inmates.

After an Oklahoma federal judge ruled in early June that the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol was constitutional, O’Connor made his claim, saying in papers that prisoners had exhausted their appeals. criminals. O’Connor argued for impending execution dates as a matter of justice for family members of those killed. In a statement, O’Connor noted that the first murder by a prisoner on Oklahoma’s death row was in 1993.

Oklahoma death row inmate convulsed and vomited during lethal injection, witness says, as state resumes executions

The first execution is scheduled for August 25, with subsequent executions scheduled approximately once every four weeks through 2024. In Oklahoma, prisoners automatically receive a clemency hearing within 21 days of their scheduled execution , the date on which the state’s Pardons and Parole Board can recommend that the governor grant a prisoner a reprieve from death row.

The predicted wave of executions is expected to bring Oklahoma back to familiar territory: the center of the national death penalty debate.

The first drug administered by Oklahoma in its lethal injection protocol, the sedative midazolam, has drawn legal challenges from prisoners, claiming it fails to reliably render them unconscious, increasing the likelihood of an execution that would be considered “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.

The state suspended executions in 2015 after the botched lethal injections of Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett in which a still-conscious Warner shouted, “My body is on fire.” Lockett writhed for 43 minutes before dying of a heart attack.

Oklahoma lethal injection process muddied by ‘inexcusable failure’, grand jury says

Several of the Oklahoma prisoners slated for execution have strong claims of innocence, histories of intellectual disability that should disqualify them for the death penalty or whose cases have allegations of racial bias, their attorneys say.

Among them is Richard Glossip, whose 2015 case against the state’s lethal injection protocol went to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the state. His assertion of innocence has not only made him one of the most publicized death row inmates in the United States, but has also won him the support of Republican lawmakers in the state who oppose his execution, scheduled for september.

Glossip’s attorney filed a motion for post-conviction relief on Friday, a type of appeal that cites new evidence that was unavailable in his original 1998 trial. Last month, law firm Reed Smith released an independent investigation into the Glossip case commissioned by a committee of lawmakers led by Texas House Rep. Kevin McDugle (R). This found “serious” concerns about Glossip’s sentencing, including allegations that Oklahoma City police, under the direction of prosecutors, intentionally destroyed evidence favorable to Glossip.

“The facts and evidence we now know in this case prove that Richard Glossip is an innocent man,” Glossip’s attorney Don Knight said in a statement Friday. “We urge the State of Oklahoma to grant this request for post-conviction relief based on the abundance of new evidence that has never before been assessed by a judge or jury.”

Glossip was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted of a murder-for-hire scheme against Barry Van Treese, a motel owner who was Glossip’s boss.

Glossip, who received several last-minute reprieves, including a near-botched execution in 2016, prompted the state to shut down its death chamber for five years. A grand jury investigation that year found “inexcusable failures” in the state’s protocol on the death penalty.

In a 2020 hearing, state attorneys said the Oklahoma Department of Corrections had addressed deficiencies in execution training “to ensure that what happened in the past will never happen again”.

The following year, the state carried out its first execution since 2015. According to witnesses, the prisoner, John Marion Grant, had full-body convulsions and vomited before he died.

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