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Oklahoma court delays executions due to lethal injection drug shortage

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] on Tuesday ruled [order, PDF] that two inmate executions scheduled for March 20 and March 27 must be delayed for at least a month so that the state may have additional time to either procure the appropriate execution drugs or to alter the state's execution protocol. The state's assistant attorney general submitted a brief [TIME report] to the court on Monday, which reported that Oklahoma does not currently have the necessary pentobarbital or vecuronium bromide. Both of these drugs, in conjunction with potassium chloride, are necessary in order to carry out a lawful death sentence in the state. Execution dates for the inmates are now rescheduled for April 22 and April 29.

The shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs in the US is severe, forcing a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols. In February the Supreme Court of Georgia heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of a law allowing the state to withhold the identities of the manufacturers of Georgia's lethal injection drugs. Earlier that month, a federal judge in Louisiana scheduled [JURIST report] a trial to review the constitutionality of the state's new execution protocol, which delayed the prisoner's execution for 90 days. In January the US Supreme Court stayed [JURIST report] the execution of a Missouri death row inmate because the state refused to release the name of the pharmaceutical to be used in the execution, but the stay was later lifted and the execution carried out. This same two-drug mixture at question in Louisiana was used last month in the execution of an Ohio convict, which reportedly caused him to suffer visible pain and his children have filed a suit in federal court over the prolonged execution [JURIST reports].

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