Oklahoma officials backed use of wrong drug in botched execution grand jury

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Governors top counsel urged prison to go forward with planned death despite receiving the wrong drug, telling deputy attorney general to Google it

The top lawyer for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin urged prison officials to go forward with a planned execution even though they received the wrong drug, telling a deputy attorney general to Google it to confirm it could be used, a grand jury said in a report Thursday.

The grand jury faulted many officials for three botched execution attempts but issued no indictments after its months-long investigation. But the panel noted that Fallins general counsel, Steve Mullins, advocated for the use of potassium acetate in the 30 September execution of Richard Glossip, even though the states lethal injection protocol calls for potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Fallin later issued a last-minute stay for Glossip, who remains on death row.

The governors general counsel stated potassium chloride and potassium acetate were basically one in the same drug, advising the deputy attorney general to Google it, the grand jury report said. Mullins also argued that the state shouldnt file a stay for Glossips execution because it would look bad for the state of Oklahoma because potassium acetate had already been used in (Charles) Warners execution.

Mullins resigned in February as Fallins general counsel. A home phone number in his name rang unanswered Thursday afternoon.

It is unacceptable for the governors general counsel to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written protocol and the rights of Richard Glossip, the grand jury said in its report.

Attorney general Scott Pruitt, who called for the grand jury investigation, said the report clearly outlined the problems in the system.

A number of individuals responsible for carrying out the execution process were careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures, Pruitt said.

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Anti-death penalty rally outside the US supreme court in an attempt to prevent the execution of Richard Glossip. Photograph: Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org

The head of the prison system and the penitentiary warden also quit after appearing before the grand jury.

The grand jury also suggested the state should study the use of nitrogen gas to administer the death penalty, saying it would be easy and inexpensive to obtain and simple to administer. Oklahoma now uses a three-drug protocol, beginning with the surgical sedative midazolam, in its executions.

Pruitt had assembled the panel after the provider of Oklahomas execution drugs sent the wrong chemical for Glossips scheduled 30 September execution. After the execution was called off, it was later revealed that Warner had been executed with the same wrong drug in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection and after the states prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

Oklahomas court system has put executions on hold pending the grand jurys probe. Pruitt has said he will not ask the court to schedule any execution dates until at least 150 days or about five months after the results are released and his office is officially notified that the prisons system believes it can execute prisoners according to the states guidelines. In the meantime, five Oklahoma death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution dates.

In receiving the 106-page report, Oklahoma county district judge Donald Deason thanked the grand jury for its work and said Oklahomans need to know somebody has been looking at the monkey business thats been going on at the department of corrections.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/19/oklahoma-botched-execution-drug-mary-fallin