New Oklahoma procedures increase sedative fivefold in executions

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2014 12:00 PM

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma set up new procedures on executions that include increasing by five times the dosage of a controversial sedative that was among the drugs used in a botched execution in April, which prompted the state to suspend lethal injections.

The new procedures, announced late on Tuesday, allow the corrections department director to choose from four lethal injection options, two that increases the dose of Midazolam to 500 milligrams, the amount Florida uses in executions, from 100 milligrams.

Midazolam was used in the April execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett, who witnesses said writhed and moaned for 43 minutes after the lethal injection started and then died.

An investigation concluded the problem was not the drugs, but an incorrect placement of an intravenous tube in Lockett's groin area.

A report on Lockett's execution released in September found that a doctor and a paramedic failed nearly a dozen times to place an IV and were unprepared for how to proceed when the line they secured to deliver a lethal injection began leaking drugs.

Midazolam was part of botched executions in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona, when inmates took longer to die than is typical and showed outward signs of distress.

Oklahoma postponed executions after Lockett's and said it would put in place new guidelines before they resumed. The state has scheduled three executions in November and December.

Oklahoma also cut the number of media witnesses allowed to five from 12 and will required more training for prison employees and those assigned to executions under the new procedures released on Tuesday.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, who represents 21 death row inmates suing the Oklahoma corrections department, said the new protocols do little to solve the state's problems.

Baich said two of the four lethal injection drug combination options the corrections department director may choose from are experimental.

"The prisoner will be given only 10 days' notice of the selected method of execution and this is insufficient time for the court to review the procedures to ensure that the protocol is constitutional," Baich said.

Charles Warner, who had been scheduled to be executed the same night as Lockett, is now set to die by lethal injection on Nov. 13. Richard Glossip is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 20 and John Marion Grant on Dec. 4.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes; Editing by David Bailey and Doina Chiacu)