Autopsy Shows Oklahoma Used Wrong Drug to Execute Man in January

by Tracy Connor /  / Updated 

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An autopsy report shows Oklahoma apparently used the wrong drug when it executed a man in January — but officials say it wasn't discovered until they called off another lethal injection last month because of an identical mixup.

The revelation, first reported by The Oklahoman, is the latest death penalty snafu in the state — which had all executions put on hold for nine months after it botched the lethal injection of Clayton Lockett last year.

"We cannot trust Oklahoma to get it right or to tell the truth," said Dale Baich, a federal public defender who has challenged the state's protocols.

"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," he added.

"The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the State says potassium acetate was used."

Image: Charles Warner
Charles Warner, who was executed in January.AP

Oklahoma's protocol, which was the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court review this summer, calls for the heart-stopper potassium chloride to be the third drug administered.

Hours before the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip on Sept. 30, prison officials informed the state attorney general that the pharmacy had delivered potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.

A stay of execution was issued for Glossip and later extended to two other death-row inmates with upcoming execution dates.

"During the discussion of the delay of the execution it became apparent that [the Corrections Department] may have used potassium acetate in the execution of Charles Warner in January of this year," Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement.

"I was not aware nor was anyone in my office aware of that possibility until the day of Richard Glossip's scheduled execution. The attorney general's office is conducting an inquiry into the Warner execution and I am fully supportive of that inquiry."

Richard Glossip
This undated file photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Richard Glossip.Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP

Fallin did not say why she had not mentioned the possibility the state used the wrong drugs on Warner until the Oklahoman reported that his autopsy report showed vials labeled potassium acetate were apparently used to fill syringes labeled potassium chloride.

When Warner was killed, he was the first Oklahoman put to death since the debacle with Lockett, who regained consciousness and writhed in pain during the procedure — a macabre spectacle that was condemned by President Obama.

As Warner was executed, he complained about pain, saying, "My body is on fire...No one should go through this."

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement Thursday that his official is conducting a "full, fair and complete" investigation that will cover not only the Glossip mixup but the Warner execution.

The Corrections Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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