Nine months after a botched lethal injection ground capital punishment to a halt, Oklahoma plans to execute a death row inmate today with the same three-drug method Florida intends to use about an hour earlier. Oklahoma prison officials ordered new medical equipment, implemented more training for staff, and renovated the execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to prevent the kind of problems that arose during the execution of Clayton Lockett in April. Attorneys for the state say a failed intravenous line and a lack of training—not the drugs—led to the problems with Lockett's injection. Both Oklahoma and Florida plan to start the executions with the sedative midazolam, which has been challenged in court as ineffective in rendering a person properly unconscious before the second and third drugs are administered, creating a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.
Charles Warner, the 47-year-old Oklahoma inmate scheduled to die today, and three other Oklahoma death row inmates have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to stop their executions. "There is a well-established scientific consensus that [midazolam] cannot maintain a deep, coma-like unconsciousness," their attorneys wrote in a petition. Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt acknowledges the drug is not Oklahoma's first choice. "Pentobarbital is best," he says. "But the manufacturers of pentobarbital will not sell that drug ... to a state for death penalty purposes." Oklahoma has increased by five times the amount of midazolam it plans to use to mirror the exact recipe that Florida has used in 11 successful executions. But midazolam also was used in problematic executions last year in Arizona and Ohio. Warner had originally been scheduled to die two hours after Lockett. (Read more execution stories.)