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Death Penalty

Oklahoma delays two executions due to lack of drugs needed for lethal injection

Posted Mar 18, 2014 6:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A lack of lethal injection drugs has led to the postponement, until next month, of two scheduled Oklahoma executions.

Sidestepping, at least for now, constitutional claims by two convicted murderers that they are entitled to know the source of the drugs to be used in their executions, a state appeals court ruled (PDF) Tuesday that the executions must be postponed, according to the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.).

An admission by the state in a brief filed Monday that it doesn't yet have all the drugs needed to carry out the first scheduled death penalty on Thursday left the state Court of Criminal Appeals "with no confidence that the state will be able to procure the necessary drugs before the scheduled executions are to be carried out," the ruling explains. "Based on this new information, we find the execution dates ... must be vacated and reset in order to allow the State of Oklahoma time to procure the necessary execution drugs or to adopt a new execution protocol."

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner argue in their declaratory judgment action that the state may be obtaining execution drugs of unknown content from a compounding pharmacy not licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A number of pharmaceutical companies that are licensed by the FDA have declined in recent years to sell drugs to be used in executions.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Judge blocks sale of execution drug to Missouri"

Colorado Independent: "Oklahoma scramble to find lethal injections prompts delay in two executions"

Oklahoman: "Oklahoma attorney general brief says Oklahoma does not have drugs needed for Thursday execution"

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