Death Penalty

Governor's lawyer opposed execution stay despite drug mix-up, report says

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The general counsel for Oklahoma’s governor opposed a last-minute stay of execution last September even though the doctor who was set to administer a lethal cocktail discovered a wrong drug was supplied, according to a grand jury report released on Thursday.

The general counsel, Steve Mullins, told a deputy attorney general that the wrongly supplied potassium acetate was the same as the specified drug potassium chloride and the deputy attorney general could “Google it,” the report said. The Associated Press, the Washington Post, NewsOK, Reuters and the Tulsa World are among the publications covering the report (PDF).

Mullins also said it would look bad to delay the execution of the inmate, Richard Glossip, because another inmate, Charles Frederick Warner, had received the same wrong drug in his execution. The mistake in Warner’s execution was revealed in an autopsy received by state officials in April 2015, but no one noticed at the time its reference to potassium acetate.

The report was critical of Mullins, who has since resigned. “It is unacceptable,” the report said, “for the governor’s general counsel to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written protocol and the rights of Richard Glossip.”

The report also identified other missteps. A pharmacist who ordered the wrong drug attributed the mix-up to “pharmacy brain.” Prison officials either didn’t notice or didn’t disclose that the wrong drug was supplied.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin delayed Glossip’s scheduled Sept. 30 execution, citing concerns about the legality of one of the drugs. About a week later she announced that she was delaying executions because of the drug mix-up in Warner’s execution.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt had sought the grand jury investigation. “A number of individuals responsible for carrying out the execution process were careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures,” he said.

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