The New York Times reports, "Execution Case Roils Oklahoma Courts," by Erik Eckholm.
The legal wrangling in Oklahoma over the planned executions of two convicted murderers reached a new level of confusion on Tuesday as the State Supreme Court quickly rejected the attorney general’s claim that it had exceeded its power by granting stays of execution, only to have Gov. Mary Fallin assert that she was taking control and would arrange for the men to be put to death next week.
On Monday, the Supreme Court, which does not normally handle criminal matters, reluctantly stepped in to delay the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner while their challenge to lethal injection methods is argued. The Court of Criminal Appeals had refused on technical grounds to consider the appeal for a delay, leading to weeks of increasingly barbed confrontation between the two courts.
The attorney general, Scott Pruitt, filed a motion on Tuesday asking the State Supreme Court to remove the stay, saying it had no jurisdiction over executions and calling the separate case over lethal injection drugs a diversionary tactic by the condemned men.
"Oklahoma execution halted amid confusion over stay orders," is by Heide Brandes of Reuters, via GlobalPost.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a one-week stay in the execution of a death row inmate due to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, in a move to clear up confusion over which state body has the final say over executions.
Fallin ordered the stay for convicted murderer Clayton Lockett a day after the state Supreme Court issued its own emergency stay for Lockett and a second inmate, Charles Warner, amid legal wrangling over drugs used in lethal injections.
The stay issued by Fallin moves back Lockett's execution to April 29, the same day Warner is scheduled to be executed.
"While I have great respect for the honorable men and women of the Supreme Court, this attempted stay of execution is outside the constitutional authority of that body," Fallin, a Republican, said in a statement.
"Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin stays execution," is by Graham Lee Brewer in the Oklahoman.
Faced with conflicting orders, Gov. Mary Fallin delayed Tuesday’s scheduled execution of a convicted murderer.
Her executive order is the latest development in what the attorney general’s office calls a judicial crisis.
At issue is who has the authority to say when an Oklahoma death row inmate can be executed.
The state Court of Criminal Appeals had ordered convicted murderer Clayton Derrell Lockett to be executed Tuesday for the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman.
However, a divided Oklahoma Supreme Court, for the first time in state history, blocked the execution in an order Monday.
The Tulsa World reports, "Gov. Mary Fallin issues 7-day stay for inmate's execution," by Ziva Branstetter.
Saying the state's highest court exceeded its authority in granting stays to two inmates, Gov. Mary Fallin issued a seven-day stay of execution Tuesday for one of the inmates.
Fallin's office said it now plans to execute both inmates — Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner — on the same day, April 29.
Both executions were ordered stayed indefinitely by the state Supreme Court on Monday while it considers appeals of a lower court's ruling that the state's execution-secrecy law is unconstitutional.
Under the state's constitution, the Court of Criminal Appeals is the state's highest court for criminal cases. The Supreme Court generally has jurisdiction over civil matters, including whether state laws are constitutional.
The Supreme Court has never issued an execution stay in the past, but the court noted in its opinion Monday that it has "sole power" to determine which court has jurisdiction to issue a stay.
The World also posted Gov. Fallin's Executive Order in Adobe .pdf format.
"Oklahoma finally did the right thing in stopping two executions," is by Scott Martelle for the Los Angeles Times Opinion LA blog.
Sanity prevailed in Oklahoma on Monday.
Oklahoma County District Court Judge Patricia Parrish recently ruled that the state's secrecy-shrouded lethal-injection protocol denies condemned prisoners due process. The compelling point: How can prisoners weigh the constitutionality of their executions if they are barred from knowing with what drugs they will be killed? The state, naturally, is appealing that decision. But in a Kafka-esque twist of legal absurdities, one of the men, Clayton Lockett, came awfully close to execution anyway.
Through a bizarre legal convolution, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled after Parrish's decision that the authority to issue a stay of execution rested with the state Court of Criminal Appeals. But the appeals court said that no, in fact, it did not have that authority, even though the Supreme Court, which has the power to determine authority, said it did. Stalemate.
So while a judge had ruled that the condemned men raised legitimate issues over the constitutionality of the execution process, two other courts became bogged down bickering over which had the authority to keep the men from being executed before the legal issues were resolved.
Additional coverage includes:
"Court halts Oklahoma executions: why lethal injection is now so controversial," by Mark Guarino for the Christian Science Monitor. It's also available from Yahoo News.
Al Jazeera America posts, "US executions on hold over lethal drug secret."
Earlier coverage of Oklahoma lethal injection issues begins at the link.