Death Penalty

Oklahoma used wrong drug in January execution, autopsy report suggests

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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is delaying executions in the state after an autopsy report indicated that an inmate executed in January may have received the wrong execution drug.

Fallin says “it became apparent” last week that one of the drugs used to execute Charles Frederick Warner was potassium acetate rather than potassium chloride, report the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

An autopsy report, first obtained by the Oklahoman, said syringes used in the execution were labeled “potassium chloride” but the vials used to fill the syringes were labeled “single dose potassium acetate injection.”

Warner had complained his body was “on fire” during his execution, but at that point he had received only the sedative midazolam, the first drug in a three-drug cocktail. Potassium chloride is the third drug and is used to stop the heart. Warner died 18 minutes after his execution began.

Prison officials discovered last week that a pharmacist had delivered potassium acetate for the scheduled execution of another inmate, Richard Glossip, spurring Fallin to delay the execution. Attorney General Scott Pruitt is investigating the problem.

Oklahoma had scheduled Glossip’s execution for Sept. 30 after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in his execution and two others in Oklahoma.

Experts told AP that potassium chloride is absorbed by the body more quickly than potassium acetate. Because of the difference, more potassium acetate is needed to have the same effect. But Yale University pharmacology expert David Gortler told the Washington Post that “potassium is potassium” and the pharmacology of the two drugs is similar.

See also:

New York Times: “Delays as Death-Penalty States Scramble for Execution Drugs”

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