Oklahoma court sets execution dates for 25 men


(Updated July 4, 2022)

On Friday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals scheduled execution dates for 25 men on death row, including individuals with claims of innocence, severe mental illness, and intellectual disability.

The CCA set the dates in response to a request by Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, who said he was acting “for the sake of the victims’ families, many of whom have waited for decades.” Despite troubling details about each case, the court seemed all-too-eager to comply.

In chillingly clinical detail, the court outlined how the “execution schedule” will be “divided into [five] phases consisting of six inmates each being set for execution at least four weeks apart,” with “an open month [to] separate each phase…to accommodate rescheduling if needed.”

The first killing is set for this August 25, and the last (the 25th) is scheduled for December 5, 2024.

The court also offered the assurance that this mass execution will “progress in a timely and orderly manner.”

O’Connor’s request and the court’s order came on the heels of Superior Court Judge Stephen P. Friot’s ruling on June 6. He found that Oklahoma’s use of 500 milligrams of midazolam as an anesthetic in the state’s three-drug protocol “will easily accomplish general anesthesia,” and the “recipient of that dose will feel no pain.” Therefore, “The plaintiff inmates have fallen well short of clearing the bar set by the Supreme Court.”

Friot made his decision after a week-long trial in which various experts testified. “Rarely, in any field of litigation, does a court see and hear well-qualified expert witnesses giving expert testimony as squarely – and emphatically — contradictory, on the issues at the heart of the matter, as in this case,” he wrote. 

His ruling marked the end of an eight-year legal effort by 28 men on Oklahoma’s death row, who filed a lawsuit in 2014 challenging the state’s execution protocol as violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. As Oklahoma Watch details, the challenge was first filed in a U.S. District Court, advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court, went back to the district court, was closed in 2015, when Oklahoma imposed a moratorium on executions, and was reopened in 2020. 

Last October, however, while the case was still pending, the state resumed executions when it killed John Grant, who convulsed and violently vomited during his execution. Three more executions followed, reportedly without complications. 

Now, it appears Oklahoma will engage in a frenzy of executions, approximately one a month, until all 25 men, including those who still have viable legal challenges or strong innocence claims but who have exhausted their appeals, are dead.

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