Oklahoma AG Cheers|Supreme Court on Death

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Oklahoma lost no time Monday preparing to resume executions after the Supreme Court upheld its new execution protocol with replacement drugs.
     Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office filed a notice suggesting the appropriateness of scheduling execution dates with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
     Pruitt halted all pending executions on Jan. 28 pending the Supreme Court ruling in Glossip v. Gross , in which four inmates claimed the state’s use of midazolam – the first drug in the three-drug replacement protocol – fails to render a person insensate to pain, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
     Pruitt asked the state’s highest criminal appeals court to schedule executions for Aug. 5, Aug. 26, Sept. 16, Oct. 7 or Oct. 28 for the three remaining plaintiffs: Richard Glossip, Benjamin Robert Cole and John Marion Grant.
     A fourth plaintiff, Charles Warner, was executed on Jan. 15 with replacement drugs. He told witnesses during his final statement that the injection “hurt” and “feels like acid.”
     States have been forced to seek replacement execution drugs from compounding pharmacies after anti-death penalty activists persuaded large drug manufacturers to stop making traditional lethal injection drugs. Oklahoma’s previous three-drug protocol required pentobarbital to knock the inmate unconscious, vecuronium to stop breathing and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
     The lawsuit was filed in the months after the botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett , 38, in April 2014. He was declared unconscious after the injection of midazolam, but breathed heavily, writhed, clenched his teeth and strained to lift his head off a pillow three minutes later. Blinds separating a viewing gallery and the death chamber were lowered and Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton halted the execution. It took Lockett 43 minutes to die of a heart attack.
     In a 5-4 ruling Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the new execution protocol, saying the inmates failed “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain.”
     Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, criticized the dissenting opinion’s “outlandish rhetoric” and “groundless suggestion” that the ruling amounts “to allowing prisoners to be ‘drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake.'”
     Attorney General Pruitt commended the court’s ruling on Monday, saying it is the eighth time a court has upheld Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols.
     “The families in these three cases have waited a combined 48 years for justice,” Pruitt said in a statement Monday. “Now that the legal issues have been settled, the state can proceed with ensuring that justice is served for the victims of these horrible and tragic crimes.”
     Anti-death penalty and religious leaders expressed disappointment with the ruling. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said Monday he prays for the day Oklahoma and other states will outlaw capital punishment.
     “The use of the death penalty, in any form, diminishes us all,” the archbishop said. “When available, we should choose nonlethal ways to ensure justice and to protect society.”
     Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Monday the death penalty is losing ground even in conservative states such as Nebraska, which recently prohibited it.
     “Yet that message clearly has not risen up to the highest court in the land,” she said. “That means our work is far from done.”

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