[JURIST] The Oklahoma County District Court [official website] ruled Wednesday that the state’s law preventing death row inmates from obtaining information about the drugs used in lethal injections violates the Oklahoma constitution. Judge Patricia Parrish found [AP report] that the Oklahoma law, which keeps the identities of lethal-injection drugs suppliers secret and prevents the information from being revealed in court, is a violation of an inmate’s due process right. Death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner challenged the Oklahoma law out of concern that the approved lethal injection protocol would immobilize them without masking the pain of the execution. The announcement of Lockett and Warner’s court challenge led to a shortage of the states standard execution drugs prompting Oklahoma’s prison system to adopt [AP report] five acceptable ways to put death row inmates to death.
The shortage of commonly used lethal injection [JURIST news archive] drugs in the US has forced a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols. Earlier this month the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Lockett and Warner executions scheduled for March 20 and March 27, respectively, 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. In February Judge Terence Kern [official profile] for the US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma [official website] issued [JURIST report] a temporary restraining order on The Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa [corporate website] to stop the pharmacy from providing an execution drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections [official website] for an upcoming lethal injection. In February the Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] 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. Also in February, the Florida Supreme Court ordered [JURIST report] an evidentiary hearing to determine if the sedative midazolam should remain in the state’s lethal injection procedure. A month earlier, the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] refused to halt the execution of a convicted murderer Dennis McGuire, who was scheduled to die through the administration of a never-before-tried drug protocol due to the unavailability of the state’s standard drug.