More fallout over Oklahoma execution errors
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
There are more questions in the fallout of the grand jury investigation into Oklahoma's failures to carry out a legal execution.
The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says the report proves their position. While they support abolition of the death penalty, they are asking for a continued moratorium on capital punishment while the state works on the grand jury's recommendations.
They were joined by state Representative George Young, D-Oklahoma City, who said the state should go farther than a moratorium and should stop using its limited resources on executions. "The only response is simply and I say it and I've said it before 'Thou shalt not kill,'" Representative Young said quoting a Biblical reference to one of the Ten Commandments.
"We do need to have a moratorium," Young said, "We're on the front pages of all the newspapers already for events and things that we do that are so asinine that it makes me embarrassed sometimes to tell folks that I am not only a citizen but a representative in the state of Oklahoma."
One of the major points of concern is the jurors recommendation the state begin learning how to implement the backup execution method which is now nitrogen gas.
The ACLU says that method of execution, which has never been used for that purpose in the United States, would undoubtedly face legal challenges. Though the agency's legal director said the research by Nazi scientists shows it would like by effective. "If their work is accurate than we will be very successful at murdering our own citizens with nitrogen hypoxia," said Brady Henderson with the ACLU of Oklahoma, "The question perhaps this report should cause us to ask is whether or not we should."
Chief among concerns of those critical of the executions are the facts in the report related to the actions of the governor's former general counsel, Steve Mullins. The report highlights how Mullins tried to insist the state use the wrong drug to execute Richard Glossip even while knowing the protocol had been violated in the past. At one point Mullins is reported to have told the attorney general's office to "Google it," while he pressed to use a drug that was not legally allowed in Oklahoma executions.
"I've known him [Mullins] for decades and he's a top notch person," said Rex Friend, and Oklahoma City attorney and member of the coalition, "But we know what happens with absolute power and he put himself above the law, urged that there be a denial of the prior wrong killing procedure in the case of Charles Warner; he put himself above the governor."
The grand juror did not issue any criminal indictments against anyone connected to the executions, but critics of the process say the report was an indictment on the state's ability to handle the death penalty.
"Right now we are in the proximity, just down the hall from the legislative chambers of the house and the senate, we are standing in the midst of a circus of political and administrative incompetence," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Kiesel said Oklahomans may continue to support the death penalty, but he believes there is a growing sentiment that the current state government cannot competently carry out a lawful execution. "I for one cannot trust them," Kiesel said, "And I think a number of Oklahomans are adding to those numbers."
The Attorney General's office promised a federal court it would not seek new execution dates until at least 150 days following the conclusion of the grand jury's investigation. That countdown clock will begin after the Department of Corrections has finalized a new protocol.
Fox 25 contacted both the Attorney General's office and the Governor's office for a comment on how long the executions will be stayed, but neither officer returned our request for information.