Oklahoma will carry out two executions just hours apart Tuesday evening, marking the first time since Texas in 2000 that a state has put two death-row inmates to death in the same day.
The executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, which will go forward barring any extraordinary legal intervention, will also put an end — for now — to a “constitutional crisis” in Oklahoma that found the Republican governor and state Supreme Court locked in an unprecedented legal showdown concerning the secrecy of its supply of lethal-injection drugs.
The carousel of heated back-and-forth litigation culminated last week with dueling orders from Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Supreme Court. A day after the court ruled to stay the executions indefinitely, Fallin issued a temporary, seven-day stay on Lockett’s execution, which had been scheduled for April 22. Fallin’s order, which was a de facto override of the court’s decision, drew scrutiny from legal experts, prompting some to declare the state was mired in a constitutional crisis.
But the court quickly balked, choosing instead to nullify its own stay and reverse a lower-court ruling that found a law allowing the state to keep secret the source of its lethal drugs unconstitutional. Death-penalty opponents have accused state officials of succumbing to political pressure.
Oklahoma’s morass reflects a growing challenge states are facing nationally to carry out their death sentences because of lethal-drug shortages. As European manufacturers make it increasingly difficult for states to procure chemicals intended for lethal injections, states are being forced to look elsewhere to procure the necessary ingredients. In Oklahoma, as well as other states such as Texas and Missouri, states have turned to secret compounding pharmacies to produce the lethal cocktails.
Opponents of the death penalty say such secrecy violates a prisoner’s right to know how he will die and could undermine Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
“We don’t know where the drugs are coming from,” Cheryl Pilate, a Missouri attorney who has represented inmates challenging that state’s drug secrecy, said earlier this month. “They could be coming from a veterinarian, some dark corner of the Internet, or someone working in their basement.”
Because of those procurement challenges, Oklahoma is set to use a three-drug cocktail Tuesday evening on Lockett and Warner that has never before been used by the state. The specific combination of drugs has only been used before in Florida, although the protocol there asked for five times the amount of midazolam, which acts as a sedative.
Oklahoma changed its execution protocol last month to allow its Department of Corrections to use any of five lethal-injection procedures. The state has refused to disclose the manufacturers of those lethal drugs, citing a 2011 supplier-secrecy law officials say is necessary to persuade companies, under the cloak of anonymity, to provide them lethal drugs.
Oklahoma’s double execution Tuesday will be the state’s first since 1937.
- 1 Only the Margin Seems in Doubt in the Presidential Race
- 2 The Late-Breaking Democratic House Targets
- 3 Great Democratic Hopes Energize Quiet Faithful in Missouri
- 4 Will Congress Try to Rein in Obamacare Premiums?
- 5 Smart Ideas: Ken Bone Revealed a Serious Policy Divide, and Elizabeth Warren Seeks a Co-Presidency
What We're Following See More »
Twenty-three members of Congress "on Thursday asked the Justice Department to clarify how a looming rule change to the government's hacking powers could impact privacy rights of innocent Americans. The change, due to take place on December 1, would let judges issue search warrants for remote access to computers located in any jurisdiction, potentially including foreign countries. Magistrate judges can normally only order searches within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties."
"Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced that her campaign and joint fundraising committees raised $101 million in the first 19 days of October, giving her committees $153 million in cash on hand." Her campaign itself has about $62 million on hand. The campaign said the average donation was $50.
Hillary Clinton appeared on the campaign trail for the first time with Michelle Obama on Thursday night. At the joint appearance in North Carolina, Mrs. Obama said, “When you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying that this election is rigged, understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter, that the outcome has already been determined and that you shouldn’t even bother to make your voice heard.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”