OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma, a state with one of the busiest death chambers in the country in the past few decades, will be the third year without an execution in 2018, while the prison officials and the state attorneys to fine-tune the procedure for putting condemned prisoners to death.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said last week that he was planning to meet with the top of the prison officials and that he expects more clarity about the new lethal injection protocols “in the next two or three weeks.”
“We need to feel some urgency, but we also need to get it done,” Hunter said. “I would say both of those things are just as important.”
The republican Gov. Mary Fallin said that she trust the Huntsman and the Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh for the development of new protocols, but acknowledged that the challenge the state faces in acquiring the lethal drugs.
“The most solemn responsibility for a state is the taking of a life,” Fallin said in a statement Friday. “The state must ensure that the protocols and procedures for executions work.”
Of the 2,817 death row inmates awaiting execution in 32 states, 47 of them are in Oklahoma, according to the Washington, D. C.-based Death Penalty Information Center. Like many death penalty states, Oklahoma has struggled in the past ten years to obtain the lethal drugs used in executions, such as manufacturers, including many in Europe, have said that they don’t want their products used to kill people.
Fallin reiterated her support of the death penalty for those who commit “heinous crimes” and said that she is ready for executions to resume under her watch as soon as the new protocols are approved by the court.
Oklahoma all executions on hold two years ago after a number of mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 and the drug of mix-ups in 2015, which led to a prisoner who is running with the wrong medication and another prisoner, a few steps away from have led to the death chamber before prison officials realized the same wrong medication was concerned for his execution.
Since then, there are a number of top officials linked to the botched executions have terminated, and the state multicounty grand jury issued a scathing report about Oklahoma’s lethal injection process that suspect a number of people involved in the process of sloppy and careless work.
Allbaugh, the new prisons director, has refused repeated requests by The Associated Press about the new implementation of the procedures, and a spokesman for the agency said only that they continue to work on the protocols. Oklahoma law also allows the use of a firing squad, the electric chair, or nitrogen hypoxia perform executions, but Allbaugh has previously said that he did not plan for Oklahoma the first state to use nitrogen gas to execute prisoners.
Since executions stopped, 16 Oklahoma death row inmates have exhausted their federal appeal, and are awaiting data to be sent to the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
And, a federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s execution of the protocols as unconstitutional remains in the federal court in Oklahoma City, but is expected to be activated as soon as the new protocols are released, said Dale Baich, a federal public prosecutor represents a group of Oklahoma death row inmates.
“We will have the review of the protocol and at a certain point, the approach of the court of our concerns,” Baich said.
The attorney general’s office has said in court filings that it is not a performance data until at least 150 days or about five months after the new protocols were released.
The death penalty has bipartisan support in the Oklahoma Legislature, and more than two-thirds of the state of the voters favor a pro-death penalty question on the ballot in 2016.
Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy
Sign up for the AP’s weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas: http://apne.ws/2u1RMfv