Oklahoma is set to execute two convicted murderers Tuesday evening with back-to-back lethal injections that defense lawyers say are "experimental."
The execution of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner will be the first time since 2000 that a state has put two people to death on the same day.
The men had their death date postponed while Oklahoma prison officials scrambled to obtain the lethal chemicals and retooled its protocol and while the defense challenged the state's refusal to disclose the source of the drugs.
But the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed its own stay of execution last week, clearing the way for both executions.
The drug cocktail that will be administered to both men consists of midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium-chloride — the same combination used by Florida, but with a different dosage of midazolam.
“Tonight, in a climate of secrecy and political posturing, Oklahoma intends to kill two death row prisoners using an experimental new drug protocol, including a paralytic, making it impossible to know whether the executions will comport with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual suffering," Warner's lawyer, Madeline Cohen said in a statement.
"Because the issue of secrecy in lethal injection has not been substantively addressed by the courts, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner will be executed without basic information about the experimental combination of drugs used in their deaths."
The Oklahoma attorney general's office said it has provided the prisoners' legal team with assurances the drugs came from a licensed source and noted that the actual protocol has not been challenged in court.
“Let’s be clear: throughout the legal wrangling, the attorneys for Lockett and Warner have not challenged whether they committed these atrocious crimes and are deserving of the maximum lawful punishment," AG Scott Pruitt said.
"The administration of the death penalty is a solemn duty carried out by the state; and the courts have ruled the State of Oklahoma has done its job to ensure these executions proceed in accordance with the law.”
Warner was sent to death row for the murder and rape of his girlfriend's 11-month-old daughter, Adrianna Waller, in 1997. Lockett was sentenced to die for the 1999 murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman, who was kidnapped, shot twice and buried alive.
Lockett's execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. local time. Prison officials said he opted not to have a last meal after his request — chateaubriand steak; fried shrimp; large baked potato with butter, sour cream, scallions, bacon bits, salt and pepper; six pieces of garlic butter toast; a Kentucky Bourbon pecan pie; a liter of Coca-Cola and a bag of ice — was rejected because it would have cost more than $15.
Warner requested 20 pieces of boneless hot wings, a potato wedge, two fruit cups and cole slaw as his last meal before his 8 p.m. execution.
Oklahoma is one of several states where death-row inmates have tried to force officials to reveal the source of the drugs that will kill them.
State officials are desperate to keep the details secret to insulate specialty pharmacies from protests, threats and lawsuits.
Obtaining the drugs has become increasingly difficult because some pharmaceutical companies have banned the use of their products in executions.
As a result, some prison agencies have been forced to revise their protocols and use new injections. The January execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio — using midazolam and hydromorphone — drew scrutiny because he took 25 minutes to die and appeared to gasp for breath.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced Monday that an internal review had determined McGuire did not feel any pain, a finding his lawyer dismissed as "sanitized."
Oklahoma Department of Corrections / AP file
Charles Warner, left and Clayton Lockett, right.
First published April 29 2014, 11:34 AM