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Oklahoma Death Row Inmates Sue Over Drugs' Secrecy

Wed, 02/26/2014 - 3:40pm
BAILEY ELISE McBRIDE, Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two Oklahoma death row inmates scheduled to be executed next month sued state corrections officials Wednesday for details about the drugs that will be used to execute them, including their source.

Under state law, no one may disclose who provides Oklahoma with the three drugs it uses to execute condemned prisoners. Lawyers for Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett fear the men could suffer severe pain if Oklahoma is allowed to keep secrets.

"Plaintiffs have no means to determine the purity of the drug which may be used to execute them, and whether that drug is contaminated with either particulate foreign matter or a microbial biohazard that could lead to a severe allergic reaction upon injection," the lawyers wrote in their state court lawsuit.

Lockett is to be executed March 20 for the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner is to be executed on March 27 for the 1997 death of his girlfriend's 11-month-old daughter.

Oklahoma and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty — stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Lawyers for the Oklahoma inmates do not challenge the men's guilt or the use of lethal injection, just the state's policy of not disclosing how it intends to kill the two.

They suggest that a Tulsa compounding pharmacy challenged by lawyers for a Missouri death row inmate who was executed early Wednesday may have supplied Oklahoma with its lethal drugs. The Apothecary Shoppe, in a deal with lawyers for Michael Taylor, agreed not to supply pentobarbital, a sedative, for Taylor's execution.

Warner and Lockett's lawyers said in their lawsuit that compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that, as a result, there is a risk that the two Oklahoma inmates could suffer as they die.

Compounding pharmacies, which custom-mix prescription drugs for doctors and patients, are generally overseen by state boards, although a law adopted last year allows larger compounding pharmacies to register with the FDA and submit to federal inspections.

The lawyers say they believe Oklahoma used compounded pentobarbital as the first drug in a January execution. Michael Wilson's final words were, "I feel my whole body burning."

Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie and a spokeswoman for The Apothecary Shoppe didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

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