Oklahoma: Warden Can Pick Any of 5 Lethal Injections

Inmates' lawyers raise concerns over chemical combinations
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2014 8:13 AM CDT
Oklahoma: Warden Can Pick Any of 5 Lethal Injections
In this file photo, a warden's assistant at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary walks past the gurney in the execution chamber, in McAlester, Okla.   (AP Photo, File)

After a pair of executions were delayed over a dearth of fatal drugs, Oklahoma is saying that as of Friday, it has a new execution protocol—and its warden can now pick from any of five options for its lethal injections. Lawyers for death-row inmates Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett say the revised list of injection methods includes a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone; those chemicals were behind a much publicized Ohio execution during which Dennis McGuire appeared to gasp for breath, the lawyers note, per NBC News. Another chemical combination has never previously been used, an Eighth Amendment expert tells the Tulsa World.

According to the new protocol, it's entirely up to corrections Warden Anita Trammell to choose which method to use, which doesn't sit well with some. "The issue is that you can't give too much power to the Corrections Department," says a death penalty expert. "I would wonder if the warden has medical training, is aware of how the drugs work, is aware of pain and suffering." The inmates' lawyers add that "alarmingly, the new protocol has no provision for how the method of execution will be chosen or when legal counsel and the condemned prisoner will be informed of the selected method." Warner and Lockett yesterday asked a judge to declare the new protocol unconstitutional. (More Oklahoma stories.)

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