Today's Los Angeles Times publishes the editorial, "Oklahoma's stealth executions are an injustice."
A month from now, if all goes according to plan in Oklahoma, two convicted murderers will be executed by lethal injection, and without knowing exactly how the killing cocktail was put together or by whom. Without that knowledge, they could well be denied their basic constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The death penalty, as we've written before, is an indefensible mess of immorality, gamed judicial processes, misapplication based on race and class, and public expense. Now we can add that, at least in Oklahoma, it is being carried out in a climate of unacceptable secrecy. If the government is going to insist that it has the right to execute citizens, it must be transparent about the process and be ready to defend it in court.
The LA Times also reports, "Oklahoma court delays executions over plan to change lethal drugs," by Molly Hennessy Fiske.
The inmates' attorneys accused the state of secretly turning to a Tulsa compounding pharmacy that has also supplied Missouri with the drugs.
Because compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they argue there is a risk that inmates could suffer as they die. They believe Oklahoma used compounded pentobarbital in a January execution during which the inmate complained, "I feel my whole body burning.”
Corrections officials initially balked at identifying lethal injection drug suppliers, saying they wanted to protect their anonymity.
But in a legal filing Monday, state officials said they “remained without the drugs (pentobarbital, vecuronium bromide, potassium chloride) needed to carry out the lawful sentence of death.”
"Oklahoma Injected Lethal Drugs Into Its Death-Row Convicts–After They Were Executed," is the National Journal report by Dustin Volz.
The state of Oklahoma injected executed convicts with lethal drugs for "disposal purposes," newly published state records show.
The macabre practice, first reported Tuesday by The Colorado Independent, could tamper with postmortem toxicology results in a way that obscures from public knowledge the amount of pain endured during execution, a revelation that calls into question the state's methods for administering capital punishment at a time when lethal-injection protocols nationwide are drawing renewed scrutiny.
"Convicts executed in Oklahoma have in some cases died from overdoses of pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, the anesthetic, rather than the second and third injections in the three-drug cocktail, according to documents obtained by The Independent," reporter Katie Fretland writes. "Records show executioners then injected the remaining two drugs into convicts' dead bodies for what forms turned over in response to an open-records request refer to as 'disposal purposes.' "
"Oklahoma court postpones executions because state can’t get drugs in time," by Lindsey Bever for the Washington Post.
The problem Oklahoma is facing is caused by the increasing reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to supply the drugs needed for lethal injections and of pharmacies to prepare the compounds necessary to ensure a quick death. Many companies based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty simply stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.
The scarcity is forcing states to search for substitutes.
Already this year, the drug shortage prompted a failed attempt in Virginia’s legislature to allow the state to use the electric chair and another in Wyoming to allow the use of firing squads. A provision in Oklahoma’s state law kept it from falling back on either option this week.
The Guardian posts, "Oklahoma delays two executions amid lethal drugs shortage," by Amanda Holpuc.
US states have faced increasing difficulty in obtaining the drugs needed for an execution following a European-lead boycott.
Oklahoma’s execution process requires pentobarbital as a sedative, vecuronium bromide as a muscle relaxant and a third drug to stop the heart. Oklahoma said on Monday that it did not have any remaining supplies of those drugs.
"Okla. delays 2 executions because of drug shortage," by Gregg Zoroya at USA Today.
The struggle to procure pharmaceuticals plays out as executions appear to be on the decline. Although a majority of states -- 32-- still have the death penalty, the number of executions has fallen from 98 in 1999 to 39 last year.
In recent years, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland have abolished the death sentence; and governors in Washington, Colorado and Oregon have suspended the punishment. Courts have halted executions in Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana over lethal injection issues.
Like many states that turned to this method in recent decades -- rejecting age-old methods such as electrocution, gas chamber or firing squad -- Oklahoma state officials use a three-drug protocol. They first anesthetize the condemned with a barbiturate such as pentobarbital, then paralyze them with vecuronium bromide and stop their hearts with potassium chloride.
Additional coverage includes, "Oklahoma executions postponed after state fails to procure drugs," at Reuters.
"US halts 2 executions over drug shortage," by AFP, via News 24.
Al Jazeera America posts, "Oklahoma unable to buy lethal injection drugs for upcoming execution."
"Oklahoma delays two executions due to lack of drugs," by Sarah Muller at MSNBC.
"Oklahoma Ran Out of Drugs to Execute People, And That’s a Sign of Things to Come," by Josh Sanburn at Time.
"Oklahoma postponed two executions because it ran out of lethal injection drugs," by Jon Terbush for the Week.
"Oklahoma delays two executions due to lack of drugs needed for lethal injection," by Martha Neil at ABA Journal.
Earlier coverage of Oklahoma lethal injection issues begins at the link.