Three Oklahoma death-row inmates get reprieve following drug mixup

The executions of Richad Glossip, Benjamin Cole, and John Grant have been postponed indefinitely.

Sue Ogrocki/AP
Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton gives a statement to reporters in the media center at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., Sept. 30. Oklahoma's highest criminal court unanimously agreed Friday, to halt all of the state's scheduled executions after the state's prison system received the wrong drug for a lethal injection this week.

Oklahoma has temporarily ceased all scheduled executions after receiving the wrong drug for lethal injections this week.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Oklahoma, granted a request to stay execution indefinitely for three death row inmates. The stay was requested after the Oklahoma Department of Corrections received the wrong drug before a lethal injection.

Hours before Mr. Glossip was to be executed by lethal injection, prison officials recognized that they had received potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride. Potassium chloride is a key drug used in Oklahoma’s 3-drug, lethal-injection formula.

The potassium chloride in the lethal injection formula stops the heart from beating. Officials were not confident that the potassium acetate would have had the desired effect. For a state that overhauled their execution protocols after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed in agony for 40 minutes after being injected, correct protocol for lethal injections is nonnegotiable. Attorney General Scott Pruitt quickly requested a stay of execution until the issue could be investigated. 

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Direction Robert Patton said the new protocols were followed. The attorney general disagreed.

“Until my office knows more about these circumstances and gains confidence that DOC can carry out executions in accordance with the execution protocol, I am asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to issue an indefinite stay of all schedule executions,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement.

The three inmates affected are Mr. Glossip, Benjamin Cole, and John Grant. Mr. Glossip was convicted for arranging the death of his employer, Mr. Cole of killing his 9-month-old daughter, and Mr. Grant of stabbing a cafeteria worker to death.

The stay in execution over lethal drug related issues is an increasingly frequent trend in states that allow the death penalty. Thursday, Alfredo Prieto became the first inmate executed since 2013 in Virginia after the court refused a stay of execution Prieto’s attorneys filed over suspicion of the quality of drug used.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.


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