death penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court is examining whether the death penalty method in Oklahoma constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for using a virtually untested drug called midazolam.

The plaintiffs, several prisoners on death row in the state, brought the case after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who took 43 minutes to die on the gurney in April of 2014.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt admitted Wednesday his office incorrectly cited documents in a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of the lethal injection case. Spokesman Aaron Cooper says the error was "inadvertent."

A fascinating account of the lethal injection of Clayton Lockett a little over a year ago, and an in-depth look at the history of how execution drugs became so hard to come by in the cover story of this month's Atlantic magazine.

Manufacturer Asks Oklahoma To Return Execution Drug

Apr 30, 2015
Oklahoma has authorized four different lethal injection protocols: a single, lethal dose of either pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, a two-drug procedure using midazolam and hydromorphone, or the same three-drug method used in Florida.
James Heilman, MD / Wikimedia Commons

One of the pharmaceutical manufacturers that produces a drug used in Oklahoma’s botched execution last year has asked the state to return all of the doses of the drug.

Illinois-based Akorn is one of several manufacturers that makes the sedative midazolam, which is part of a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections in Oklahoma and other states.

The company sent a letter to state Attorney General Scott Pruitt on March 4 demanding that any of the company’s midazolam be returned for a full refund. The company said its drugs are not approved for executions.

Lethal injection was the grim subject before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. Specifically at issue: whether the drug combinations currently used to execute convicted murderers in some states are unconstitutionally cruel.

The issue comes to the court after three botched executions over the past year.

The death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday morning on Oklahoma’s death penalty protocol and whether the use of a new sedative might cause cruel and unusual punishment. 

Justices took turns asking heated questions to both Robin Konrad, who represents the Oklahoma death row inmates, and Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is often the pivotal vote in close cases. He remained quiet through the hearing and did little to reveal which way he was leaning.  

fischerfotos / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday on Oklahoma’s current lethal injection protocol during Glossip vs. Gross. The state’s method has been criticized since last year’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett, and the high court’s decision will likely affect the rest of the nation’s capital punishment procedures.

The death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Oklahoma Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that adds a new execution protocol to the state’s list of approved methods. The Sooner State could be the first in the nation to use nitrogen hypoxia if the governor signs off. 

Oklahoma has authorized four different lethal injection protocols: a single, lethal dose of either pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, a two-drug procedure using midazolam and hydromorphone, or the same three-drug method used in Florida.
James Heilman, MD / Wikimedia Commons

The president of Oklahoma City University has added his name to a legal brief that criticizes Oklahoma's execution methods.

In papers filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, OCU President Robert Henry says state lawyers picked an inappropriate drug for lethal injection because they were on a tight deadline and under political pressure.

The Oklahoman reports that Henry, a former federal appeals court judge, joined the brief as former attorney general of Oklahoma from 1987 to 1991.

The death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

After Oklahoma’s troubled execution last year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review the state’s lethal injection procedures and postpone all scheduled executions

Amid the legal scrutiny and difficulty in obtaining drugs for future lethal injections, some state lawmakers are discussing a new, completely experimental method of execution.

Pages