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State, Attorneys Agree: No Executions In Oklahoma Until 2016

Death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean on the phone with Richard Glossip shortly after his Sept. 30, 2015 execution was stayed.
Graham Lee Brewer
/
The Oklahoman
Death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean on the phone with Richard Glossip shortly after his Sept. 30, 2015 execution was stayed.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt agreed Friday to indefinitely stay the scheduled executions of three death row inmates until the completion of a grand jury investigation into the Department of Correction’s lethal injection process. The agreement was reached between the attorneys representing inmates on Oklahoma’s death row in the case, Glossip v. Gross.

 

According to the court filing, the attorney general will wait at least 150 days after the information from the investigation is provided to defense attorneys before seeking execution. The Frontier reports this means no Oklahoma inmates on death row will be executed before spring of 2016:

 

The agreement gives those attorneys a specified time period in which they can reopen the lawsuit, Glossip v. Gross, on behalf of their clients. A federal judge must sign off on the agreement. On Sept. 30, condemned prisoner Richard Glossip had been fed his last meal and was waiting to be taken to the death chamber when state officials said they realized they had received an incorrect drug for the third step of the process. Sources told The Frontierofficials “briefly considered” going ahead using potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride to kill Glossip, because it could work in a chemically similar fashion.

The court filing states, “It would be in the interests of judicial economy and comity” for the attorney general to abstain from seeking execution for any inmate on death row until the results of the state investigation have are provided to the inmate's defense attorneys.

The attorneys representing inmates on Oklahoma’s death row in the case, Glossip v. Gross, have filed to dismiss their federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s process of execution, according to Pruitt’s office.

The Department of Corrections is challenging the involvement of a grand jury, which is set to convene next Tuesday, and has hired former state attorney general Drew Edmondson as their legal counsel, according to The Oklahoman:

The involvement of grand jurors in the investigation of the drug mix-up is not a surprise. Pruitt's assistants guide them in their work. Grand jurors hear testimony two to three days a month in closed sessions in Oklahoma City. . . . The Corrections Department has hired Edmondson as an outside attorney to provide representation and advice during the investigation. He is being paid $300 an hour, a discount from his normal fee, his contract shows. He was attorney general for 16 years.

The state launched its investigation October 1 after the execution of Richard Gossip was halted the day before when one of the three lethal injection drugs was found to be the wrong drug. Oklahoma law requires potassium chloride be used, but prison officials received potassium acetate in error.

The same drug, potassium acetate, was used in errorduring the execution of Charles Frederick Warner in January of this year.

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