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Executions Are About to Resume in Oklahoma

A 'reliable' drug supplier has been found, says the state
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2020 6:59 AM CST
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Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks in front of Gov. Kevin Stitt, left, and Rep. Harold Wright during a news conference at the Office of the Attorney General in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Thursday.   (Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP)
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(Newser) – Oklahoma is set to resume executions after a five-year lull prompted by drug mix-ups, but it won't be relying on nitrogen gas. As a 2015 law allowing the state to pursue execution by nitrogen hypoxia only permits the method if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, executions will be carried out using the sedative midazolam; vecuronium bromide, which stops breathing; and the heart-stopping drug potassium chloride, officials said Thursday. They stressed that a "reliable" supplier had been found, per USA Today, though the source can't be revealed under state law. The last scheduled execution was called off in September 2015 after a drug supplier sent potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride. Officials acknowledged the drug was used in the January 2015 execution of Charles Warner, who described his body as "on fire." This followed the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014.

Officials said executions would proceed after 150 days under new protocol with recommendations from a 2016 grand jury, per CNN and the New York Times. The new steps, including verifying drugs at every step and more training for executioners, "add more checks and balances, more safeguards, to the system to ensure that what happened in the past won't happen again," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said. Officials will continue to develop a plan to use nitrogen gas as an alternative, but "there are sufficient drugs to begin the process of scheduling executions," Hunter said, per USA Today, giving credit to Corrections Department Director Scott Crow for a "tireless search to acquire the drugs from a reliable source." Gov. Kevin Stitt said executions would be "humane and swift." There are 47 people on death row in Oklahoma, including 26 who've exhausted their appeals. (Read more lethal injection stories.)

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