One day after Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) issued a surprise order staying a man’s execution just minutes before it was supposed to begin, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) filed a petition in the state’s highest criminal court asking it to indefinitely stay all executions in the state.
Pruitt’s request arises from the same set of circumstances that led Fallin to delay the state’s plan to execute an inmate named Richard Glossip. Like many states, Oklahoma’s execution protocol calls for a series of three drugs — one that is supposed to act as a painkiller, one to paralyze the inmate and then a third that stops the inmate’s heart. Oklahoma typically uses potassium chloride as the third drug in this sequence, but they discovered shortly before Glossip’s execution was supposed to begin that they’d actually received a supply of a different drug — potassium acetate.
Both potassium chloride and potassium acetate have therapeutic uses, and are typically used to treat medical conditions arising out of low potassium levels. No state, however, uses potassium acetate as part of its execution protocol and it is not clear whether this drug would actually be effective in stopping a person’s heart.
A spokesperson for Pruitt said that it is “extremely frustrating to the attorney general, that the Department of Corrections did not have the correct drugs to carry out the execution.” Nevertheless, in a statement to the press, Pruitt indicated that he believes executions must be halted until his office “gains confidence” that the state Department of Corrections “can carry out executions in accordance with the execution protocol.”
Oklahoma was the scene of two botched executions where inmates were effectively tortured to death during their execution by lethal injection. One of these inmates was heard saying “my body is on fire” and that a drug injected into him felt “like acid.”