Oklahoma prosecutors say method of execution constitutional | New Policies

By SEAN MURPHY, Associated Press writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection method is constitutional and inmates are unlikely to experience much pain before they die, Oklahoma’s solicitor general told a federal judge.

Mithun Mansinghani told U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot that the state’s four lethal injections since October “are definitive proof that the protocol is working as intended.”

Lawyers for 28 Oklahoma death row inmates challenge the state’s three-drug protocol, arguing that the first drug administered, the sedative midazolam, is not enough to render the inmate incapable of feeling terror and pain he would feel because of the next two drugs, one that paralyzes them and a final drug that stops the heart.

James Stronski, an attorney for the inmates, told Friot that if the inmates weren’t properly anesthetized, they would be paralyzed and unable to move or speak after the second drug was given, and then be in excruciating pain when the last drug was given. , potassium chloride, is injected. to stop the heart.

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“If this is allowed to continue…it’s a 21st century bonfire,” Stronski said.

The two lawyers presented their arguments at the end of a six-day trial before Friot, which is not expected to make a decision in the case for several weeks. During the trial, each side presented experts in anesthesiology and pharmacology who offered differing opinions on the effectiveness of midazolam in rendering an inmate incapable of feeling pain.

Among those testifying at trial for the state is Oklahoma City anesthesiologist Dr. Ervin Yen, a former Republican state senator and current independent gubernatorial candidate who witnessed three recent executions in as a state expert. He argues that the dose of midazolam is sufficient to render an inmate unconscious and unable to feel pain.

Both parties acknowledge that there is little evidence studying the effects of a 500 milligram dose of midazolam, the amount used by Oklahoma in its protocol, which is more than ten times the doses typically used to help anesthetize patients. patients.

Lawyers for the inmates argue that the state should remove the paralytic from the protocol and add a high dose of the opioid to ensure the inmates are sufficiently unconscious. They also argued that a firing squad, which is among the methods allowed by Oklahoma law, would be more humane than the current method.

Oklahoma resumed lethal injections in October with the execution of John Grant, who convulsed on the stretcher and vomited before being pronounced dead. Since then, three more executions have taken place without notable complications.

The 28 death row plaintiffs have exhausted their appeals and are eligible to have scheduled execution dates if Friot decides the current protocol is constitutional.

Oklahoma once had one of the busiest death chambers in the country, executing more than 100 inmates since executions resumed in 1990. But all executions were suspended in 2015 after a botched lethal injection in 2014 and drug mixes that led to an inmate. to be executed with the wrong drug. Another inmate was moments away from being led into the death chamber before prison officials realized the same bad drug had been delivered for his execution.

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