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Oklahoma Adds New Drugs to Lethal-Injection Protocol

Defense lawyers for two men on death row say the state's new protocol includes five different types of lethal injection.
The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.AP file

Lawyers for two men on Oklahoma's death row say the state has informed them it has a new execution protocol that would allow it to choose from any of five lethal injections.

The change comes days after the state revealed that it had been unable to obtain the chemicals for its existing protocol: pentobarbital and vecuronium — prompting a court to delay the executions of convicted murderers Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett for a month.

In the revised protocol given to the men's defense team, prison officials outline five possible one-drug and three-drug injections it could use to kill an inmate.

"Alarmingly, the new protocol has no provision for how the method of execution will be chosen or when legal counsel and the condemned prisoner will be informed of the selected method," the lawyers said in a statement.

They noted that one combination, midazolam and hydromorphone, was used in an Ohio execution where the prisoner took 25 minutes to die and was described as gasping for breath.

Warner and Lockett are challenging the secrecy shrouding the execution process on the grounds that it prevents the courts from determining whether the injections would violate the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

A spokesman for the Department of Correction did not respond to an inquiry about the changes.

Several states have had trouble obtaining execution drugs after manufacturers refused to sell them for the purpose of carrying out death sentences.

A number of prison systems have turned to compounding pharmacies to make the injections, and defense lawyers have been fighting to make the names of those businesses public.

— Tracy Connor