By Heide Brandes
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday granted a state request to halt three upcoming executions so it can examine a drug mix-up discovered about two hours before inmate Richard Glossip was to have been put to death earlier this week.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed the request on Thursday so the state could examine what went wrong with its execution protocols. Glossip's planned execution had received global attention with his case raising questions about whether the state may be executing an innocent man and about the drug combination Oklahoma plans to use in its lethal injection mix.
"The state is directed to keep this court advised as to the status of each case," it said in its decision.
Pruitt said the office needed to evaluate what happened on Wednesday, when the state received potassium acetate for use in its three-drug protocol instead of the court-approved potassium chloride.
Oklahoma revised its death chamber protocols after a flawed execution last year when medical staff did not properly place an IV line on murderer Clayton Lockett, who was seen twisting in pain on the gurney.
He died about 45 minutes after the procedure began because of an accumulation of lethal injection chemicals that had built up in his tissue.
Glossip, 52, was convicted of arranging the 1997 killing of Barry Van Treese, the owner of an Oklahoma City motel that Glossip was managing.
His lawyers said no physical evidence tied Glossip to the crime and that he was convicted largely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who said Glossip hired him to carry out the killing. Sneed received a life sentence.
Glossip has maintained his innocence and his lawyers presented statements in recent days from jail informants who said Sneed confessed to setting up Glossip so he could avoid a death sentence.
Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said his group received the drugs on Wednesday morning and did not know about the mistake until about two hours before the planned execution.
Glossip had previously tried to stop his execution by saying another of the drugs used in the mix could cause undue suffering.
Lawyers for Glossip and other Oklahoma death-row inmates had challenged midazolam, saying it could not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and was therefore unsuitable for executions.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz)