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Death Penalty

Judge Allows Animal Drug to Be Used in Lethal Injections in Oklahoma

Posted Nov 23, 2010 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A sedative used to euthanize animals can be used to execute death-row inmates in Oklahoma, a federal judge has ruled.

Oklahoma prison officials want to administer pentobarbital, used on animals and in physician-assisted suicides in Oregon and the Netherlands, according to the Associated Press and NewsOK.com. On Friday U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot rejected arguments that use of the drug amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The drug would be used in place of sodium thiopental, used to induce unconsciousness as part of a three-drug cocktail. Sodium thiopental is in short supply in the United States, and new batches of the drug aren’t expected to be available until January.

One prisoner challenging the substitute drug, Jeffrey Matthews, was convicted of killing his great uncle while robbing his home. The other, John David Duty, was convicted of killing his cellmate. An expert testifying on their behalf said there is a chance that the drug could paralyze an inmate while leaving him aware of the painful third drug in the execution cocktail. An expert for the state disagreed.

Lawyers for the inmates plan an appeal.

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