OKLAHOMA CITY — The drugs and procedures used to execute a death row inmate in a botched lethal injection in April do not risk violating the constitutional rights of other prisoners awaiting execution, attorneys for the state of Oklahoma argue.
In a response filed late Wednesday in federal court in Oklahoma City, the attorney general’s office also maintains the lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 death row inmates is premature and should be stayed since the state’s execution protocols are currently under review and subject to change.
The inmates are seeking to halt any attempt to execute them using the state’s current lethal injection protocols, which they allege present a risk of severe pain and suffering in violation of the U.S. Constitution. But the state said in its filing that all but the three death row plaintiffs currently scheduled to be executed — Charles Warner, Richard Glossip and John Grant — should be dismissed from the case.
“While plaintiffs will eventually be executed, there is no certain, great or actual threat that they will be executed under the same protocol that currently exists,” Assistant Attorneys General John Hadden and Aaron Stewart wrote.
The inmates’ lawsuit followed the state’s botched April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett using a new three-drug method. Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and clenched his teeth for several minutes, and his execution was halted after a doctor determined there was a problem with a single IV in Lockett’s groin. He was pronounced dead about 43 minutes after the execution began.
Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered an independent investigation into Lockett’s botched execution, and prisons director Robert Patton has previously suggested Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols need to be revised. The investigation, which is being conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, is ongoing.
Along with Patton, defendants include Oklahoma State Penitentiary warden Anita Trammell, members of the Board of Corrections and the anonymous participants in the execution — including the doctor inside the death chamber, the paramedic charged with inserting the IVs and the three executioners who administer the lethal drugs.