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Oklahoma court delays executions to investigate lethal injection issues

[JURIST] The Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals [official website] on Thursday approved a six-month stay of execution for a current death row inmate while an investigation is conducted into issues with last week's lethal injection. Attorneys for Charles Warner requested the delay after the recent botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett. Last week inmate Lockett died [JURIST report] of an apparent heart attack after doctors called off a failed attempt to execute him using a new cocktail of lethal injection drugs. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official website] originally granted Warner a two-week stay, but Attorney General Scott Pruitt [official website] urged both the governor and the court to hold off on executions [response, PDF] until the investigation was completed. Warner's attorney Madeline Cohen welcomed the decision [MSNBC report], saying that a delay was necessary to complete the investigation and revise procedures accordingly.

The shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs in the US has forced a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols, increasing the debate and controversy surrounding the death penalty. Earlier this month a federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] challenging a bill intended to protect the identities of individuals who provide direct support for the administration of the death penalty may continue. In February an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy agreed [JURIST report] not to provide a drug necessary to execute a Missouri inmate. Also 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. That same week, 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.

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