[JURIST] Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Monday asked [request for stay, PDF] the US Supreme Court to stay three executions pending a decision on the state’s lethal injection protocol or until the Oklahoma Department of Corrections finds a good alternative. On Friday the Supreme Court agreed [JURIST report] to hear arguments by three death-row inmates challenging Oklahoma’s current form of lethal injection. The arguments will most likely be heard in early April. The application asks to resume execution if the state finds an alternative or if the court upholds the current protocol. One of the three inmates is schedules to die this month, and the other two in February and March. The issue is how broad to make the stay of execution within the state and whether it will apply nationally.
Methods used for execution have become controversial as traditionally used drugs have become unavailable. Earlier this month the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied [JURIST report] a request to stay the executions of four death row inmates in Oklahoma until the court reaches a decision in their case. The petition for stay came following a decision by the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that the state’s lethal injection protocol does not subject inmates on death row to cruel and unusual punishment [JURIST report] in violation of the Eighth Amendment, effectively allowing the state to continue with its scheduled executions. In May 2014 Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals approved [JURIST report] a six-month stay of execution for a current death row inmate while an investigation was conducted into issues with the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.