Federal appeals court denies requests to halt Oklahoma executions News
Federal appeals court denies requests to halt Oklahoma executions

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] on Monday denied [order, PDF] a request to stay the executions of four death row inmates in Oklahoma until the court reaches a decision in their case. The appeals court affirmed the district court’s decision to deny the request because the inmates “failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims.” The inmates have appealed a December decision from the district court that upheld [JURIST report] Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. The lawsuit originated when the inmates filed a complaint [complaint, PDF] against the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Correction for the use of the midazolam drug in the state’s lethal injection protocol as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment [text], alleging that the drug can cause a substantial risk of “severe pain, needless suffering, and a lingering death.” The inmates also allege that a negligent administering of the drug can cause one to be conscious for the remainder of the lethal injection process, as evidenced by Oklahoma’s botched execution [JURIST report] of former inmate Clayton Lockett. One of the inmates is Charles Warner, scheduled to be executed Thursday for killing an 11-month-old child in 1997. His will be the first execution in the state since Lockett’s execution in April.

The controversy surrounding the contents of lethal injection drugs and execution protocol in the US has been a mainstream issue in politics and in courts around the US in 2014, especially since Lockett’s botched execution. In October a death row inmate in Alabama filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] claiming that the new lethal injection mix planned for use in his execution was unconstitutional. In September when Oklahoma addressed its lethal injection procedures, Governor Mary Fallin [official website] stood behind the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. In May the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals approved [JURIST report] a six-month stay of the execution for a current death row inmate while an investigation was conducted into issues with Lockett’s execution. In a June article JURIST Guest Columnist Andrew Spiropoulos of the Oklahoma City University School of Law discussed [JURIST op-ed] the tactical strategies of all parties involved in the Oklahoma Courts’ death penalty decisions.