death penalty

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

A third high-ranking official associated with Oklahoma’s death penalty protocols stepped down Thursday. Governor Mary Fallin's legal counsel Steve Mullins announced his resignation after working for the governor since February 2012.  

Oklahoma death row inmates Jeremy Williams (left) and Richard Fairchild (right).
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Two death row inmates have exhausted their appeals, but won’t have execution dates set just yet as Oklahoma continues investigating what went wrong during two executions attempted in 2015.

On Friday the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order for stays of execution for Jeremy Williams and Richard Fairchild. The Court released that document to the public Monday.

A sign advertising career opportunities at the prison in Helena, Oklahoma
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

 

Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton announced his resignation earlier this month, and he’ll begin taking leave at the end of this week. Under his watch, the state gained national attention for multiple execution snafus. But Patton’s tenure goes beyond the death chamber.

Volatile Yards

The death penalty is in decline no matter the measure, a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center has found.

The report found that 28 people were executed this year, the lowest since 1991. The number of death sentences dropped by 33 percent.

Only six states executed convicts during the year, and Texas, Missouri and Georgia accounted for 86 percent of the executions.

The last execution scheduled in the U.S. for the year is set for Tuesday in Georgia. But capital punishment has gown rare in America, to the point of near extinction.

Even though polls show that 60 percent of the public still supports the death penalty, and even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it as constitutional, the number of executions this year so far is almost the same as the number of fatalities from lightning strikes — 27 executions versus 26 deaths by lightning.

America's death penalty is under scrutiny after a series of botched executions, drug mix-ups and difficulty acquiring lethal injection drugs. Just last month, President Obama called certain parts of capital punishment "deeply troubling."

Some say long waits and repeated last-minute delays are tantamount to torture.

Death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean on the phone with Richard Glossip shortly after his Sept. 30, 2015 execution was stayed.
Graham Lee Brewer / The Oklahoman

Attorney General Scott Pruitt agreed Friday to indefinitely stay the scheduled executions of three death row inmates until the completion of a grand jury investigation into the Department of Correction’s lethal injection process. The agreement was reached between the attorneys representing inmates on Oklahoma’s death row in the case, Glossip v. Gross.

 

Updated at 1:57 p.m. ET.

Corrections officials in Oklahoma used the wrong drug to execute Charles Warner back in January.

Charles Frederick Warner
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Autopsy records show Oklahoma death row inmate Charles Warner received the wrong drug during his January lethal injection.

Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Eugene Glossip
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Updated Oct. 2, 11:54 a.m.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has granted the state's request to indefinitely stay three scheduled executions, citing the mix-up over lethal injection drugs that occurred just minutes before condemned inmate Richard Glossip was supposed to be put to death.

"Having fully considered the State's request, we find for good cuae shown, the executions set for October 7, 2015 - Benjamin Robert Cole; October 28, 2015 - John Marion Grant; and November 6, 2015 - Richard Euguene Glossip are indefinitely stayed," the court wrote.

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