Target: Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma
Goal: Demand a moratorium be placed on Oklahoma’s death penalty procedure.
A scathing report has been released highlighting the institutional failures that contributed to Oklahoma death row inmate Charles Warner’s unconstitutional execution. According to the grand jury’s report, the state’s execution process failed “from drafting to implementation.”
Charles Warner’s execution involved a three-drug cocktail: a sedative, a paralytic, and a drug needed to stop the heart. These three classes of drugs are standard fare in lethal injection executions. The difference, however, is that in most executions, the drug used to stop the inmate’s heart is potassium chloride. In Mr. Warner’s case, the heart-stopper was potassium acetate, which will kill someone like potassium chloride will, but is not on the list of acceptable execution drugs.
While potassium acetate will likely not cause “needless pain” to a death row inmate, the fact it doesn’t appear on the list of approved drugs violates the due process of inmates who are to be executed. Inmates are told at least ten days prior to their execution what drugs will go into the execution cocktail and to use a drug that is not on the list, thus is not disclosed to the inmate, impedes their ability to request a stay of execution. It’s also, effectively, the state lying to the inmate.
The grand jury report exhaustively listed all of the institutional errors that contributed to Charles Warner being executed by an unapproved drug. The Director of the Department of Corrections changed the execution protocol verbally and without authority to do so. Training lacked “key components,” and IV teams were “largely absent.” The pharmacist was told the order over the phone and was never given a written prescription, ultimately getting the order wrong in the process. The drugs went through multiple inspection checkpoints, but were never actually inspected. When a warden finally realized he had potassium acetate, not potassium chloride, he documented the drugs but didn’t notify anyone of the discrepancy. The unit chief, who was also present, “really wasn’t looking at the bottles closely.”
This is the newest incident in a string of controversial executions carried out in Oklahoma over the last couple of years. Sign the petition to demand the state government impose a moratorium on executions in the state while the Department of Corrections and everyone else involved in the execution process takes stock of what has happened and what they should do in the future.
Dear Governor Fallin,
There have been a series of controversial executions in Oklahoma in recent years. Given the horrifying revelations in the grand jury report regarding the state’s execution procedures, we urge you to consider placing a moratorium on inmate executions in Oklahoma. Inmates have taken extraordinarily long amounts of time to die and have suffered during their executions. Procedural misconduct — including unauthorized changes in protocol, carelessness in ordering potassium chloride, and failed inspection checkpoints — has placed so much scrutiny on the system of inmate execution in Oklahoma that the only way to save face is to suspend the practice and reform it.
As governor, you have the power to kick the first dominoes over and get the process started. We urge you to do what’s necessary to fix the execution protocols in Oklahoma.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: CACorrections