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Supreme Court to review Oklahoma death penalty protocols
Supreme Court to review Oklahoma death penalty protocols

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Friday granted certiorari [PDF] to determine whether Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment [text]. The case, Glossip v. Gross [docket], originated when four death row inmates filed a complaint [complaint, PDF] against the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections [official website] for the use of the midazolam drug in the state’s lethal injection protocol as cruel and unusual punishment, 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 of former inmate Clayton Lockett [JURIST report]. Although the court has agreed to hear the case, it refused to grant a stay of execution [opinion, PDF] for the inmates involved, and Oklahoma has since executed Charles Frederick Warner [JURIST report], with another inmate scheduled for execution [CNN report] next Tuesday.

The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] denied a request to stay the executions [JURIST report] of the four death row inmates earlier this month, concluding that the inmates failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their case. The petition for stay came following a decision by the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website] in December 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 September Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official website] defended the death penalty for the most heinous crimes, in spite of mounting criticism of the state’s death penalty protocols. In May the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals [official website] approved a six-month stay of execution [JURIST report] 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 the tactical strategies [JURIST op-ed] of all parties involved in the Oklahoma Courts’ death penalty decisions.