Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Autopsy reveals Oklahoma used wrong drug for execution of Charles Warner in January

Charles Warner
Charles Warner
An autopsy shows that Oklahoma used the wrong drug when it executed an inmate in January.

The Oklahoman reported Thursday that corrections officials used potassium acetate -- not potassium chloride, as required under the state's protocol -- to execute Charles Frederick Warner.

Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin issued a last-minute stay of execution for inmate Richard Glossip after officials discovered that potassium acetate had been delivered.

The autopsy says the items used in Warner's execution included 12 empty vials labeled "single dose Potassium Acetate Injection."

Potassium chloride, which stops the heart, is the final drug in the state's protocol.

After receiving the first drug in the series, midazolam, Warner said, "My body is on fire," but showed no other signs of distress and was pronounced dead after 18 minutes.

Source: kjrh.com, October 8, 2015

Autopsy: Oklahoma Used The Wrong Drug To Execute Charles Warner

Corrections officials in Oklahoma used the wrong drug to execute Charles Warner back in January. 

The revelation was included in Warner's autopsy report, which was just made public by the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. According to the report, officials used potassium acetate - not potassium chloride, as state protocol calls for - to stop Warner's heart. 

Warner, 47, had been scheduled to die on the same night as Clayton D. Lockett. If you remember, Lockett's 2014 execution was also botched. A report issued after his death, found that a phlebotomist misplaced the IV line intended to deliver the lethal cocktail of drugs directly into Lockett's bloodstream. Instead, the cocktail was delivered to the surrounding tissue and Lockett eventually died of a heart attack. 

According to The Oklahoman, which first reported on Warner's autopsy report, explains: 

"The drug vials and syringes used in Warner's execution were submitted to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner after his death. 2 of the syringes were labeled with white tape '120 mEq Potassium Chloride,' his autopsy report shows. 

"However, the 12 empty vials used to fill the syringes are labeled '20mL single dose Potassium Acetate Injection, USP 40 mEq\2mEq\mL,' the autopsy report shows." 

Back in September, Gov. Mary Fallin stopped the execution of Richard Glossip, saying that the state had received potassium acetate rather than potassium chloride. 

Following that stay, Robert Patton, Oklahoma's prisons director, told reporters that the state's drug provider told them that the 2 drugs were interchangeable. Medical professionals say they are 2 different drugs. 

In a statement, Fallin said she had not been made aware that the 2 drugs may have been switched during the Warner execution until she was told the wrong drugs were procured for the the Glossip execution. 

"The attorney general's office is conducting an inquiry into the Warner execution and I am fully supportive of this inquiry," she said. "It is imperative that the attorney general obtain the information he needs to make sure justice is served competently and fairly." 

Fallin said that until the state has "complete confidence in the system" she will delay any scheduled executions. 

Oklahoma death chamber
Oklahoma's death chamber
Glossip's attorney, Dale Baich, said in a statement that Oklahoma cannot be trusted to get this procedure right. 

"The State's disclosure that it used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride during the execution of Charles Warner yet again raises serious questions about the ability of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to carry out executions," Baich said. "The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the State says potassium acetate was used. We will explore this in detail through the discovery process in the federal litigation." 

According to the AP, Oklahoma's execution protocol does allow for some wiggle room in the kind of drugs used in executions. 

"The protocols include dosage guidelines for single-drug lethal injections of pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, along with dosages for a 3-drug protocol of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride," the AP reported. "The protocols also allow for rocuronium or pancuronium bromide to be substituted for the 2nd drug. The protocols do not list an alternate for potassium chloride, which is the 3rd drug used." 

Of course, this case again points to the issues surrounding how and where states are getting their execution drugs. Oklahoma and other states have struggled to adjust to new combinations of execution drugs after manufacturers, under pressure from critics of capital punishment, ceased providing states with drugs they had long used. 

States have turned to so-called compounding pharmacies for new drug combination that the states and the pharmacies may know little about. 

Source: NPR.org, October 8, 20125

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