Oklahoma asks court to set execution dates for 25 men

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Four days after a federal judge rejected a challenge to the state’s lethal injection method, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates for 25 men who have exhausted their appeals. 

O’Connor requested that the first execution be set for no earlier than August 25 and that the dates for each of the state’s killings be set at four-week intervals “for the sake of the victims’ families, many of whom have waited for decades.”

He filed his request after Judge Stephen P. Friot ruled on June 6 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, he wrote, “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 district court, was closed in 2015, when Oklahoma imposed a moratorium on executions, and was reopened again 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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