Oklahoma appeals court denies execution stay

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma appeals court ruled Wednesday that the state can move ahead with this month’s executions of two inmates, and defense attorneys said they would now ask the state Supreme Court to halt the executions amid questions about new lethal injection procedures.

Lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner had filed a stay request directly with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, which sets execution dates. Although it didn’t address the central arguments in the case, the panel said Wednesday the men’s challenge didn’t meet certain conditions required by law.

Lockett and Warner sued the state Department of Corrections in February over the execution procedures.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish ruled in favor of the inmates on March 26, agreeing that the state statute requiring that the names of drug suppliers be kept secret was unconstitutional because inmates could not find the source of their execution drugs, even in court proceedings. Lawyers for the inmates say they will now take their request for a stay to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

“We have a decision in our favor and the state has declined to comply with that decision,” said Madeline Cohen, a lawyer for Warner. “Our view is that no execution should go forward until the state discloses [the suppliers].”

The court said in its ruling that without an action pending in that court challenging the convictions or death sentences, the court “is without authority to issue stays of execution in this matter.” They did not comment on any of the merits of the case in their decision.

“The decision finds that under the procedural circumstances, that court doesn’t have jurisdiction, so we’re in a similar situation to where we were a few weeks ago where the courts were moving the case back and forth,” Cohen said. The case has been before four different courts since its filing.

Lawyers for the inmates contended the state has not provided adequate time for them to research the method of execution. The state changed its execution protocol on March 21 to allow five different potential drug combinations for execution by lethal injection. The state informed lawyers for the inmates on April 1 that the inmates would be executed using a combination of midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride never before used in the state. Executions have been conducted using the drug combination in Florida with lower doses.

The state followed their previous letter with another on April 4 informing the lawyers they had secured non-compounded midazolam, so the pancuronium bromide would be the only compounded drug in the mix and would be tested before being used on the inmates.

Lockett is set to be executed April 22 for the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner is scheduled to be executed April 29 for the 1997 rape and murder of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter. The men have not challenged their convictions or death sentences.

The attorney general’s office said they were pleased with court’s ruling. They plan to appeal Parrish’s ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The two inmates also have a pending legal claim related to Parrish’s ruling.

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