Oklahoma: Condemned Man Not Due a Hearing on Innocence Claim | us news

Oklahoma: Condemned Man Not Due a Hearing on Innocence Claim

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional?.

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas prison officials are helping Virginia carry out a scheduled execution next week by providing that state with the lethal drug pentobarbital that corrections agencies nationwide have had difficulty obtaining.Two years ago, The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy backed out of its deal with the state and demanded prison officials return its vials of pentobarbital, the sedative Texas uses to execute inmates.In a world where it’s harder and harder for death penalty states to get their skeleton-like hands on execution drugs, Texas may be filling that awful void.Attorneys for an Oklahoma inmate sitting on death row claim that the state of Texas is home brewing their own execution drug and selling it to other states that still practice lethal injections.

Lawyers for Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossi also said in a federal court filing Thursday that Texas is “compounding or producing pentobarbital within its department for use in executions.” Texas prisons spokesman Jason Clark said the Texas agency gave Virginia three vials of the drug, but said the state does not have a license to manufacture its own pharmaceuticals. According to Buzzfeed, attorneys for Richard Fairchild –who was convicted in 1993 for murdering his girlfriend’s 3-year-old child — contend that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is manufacturing their own pentobarbital, a sedative often used to euthanize animals. Sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of his boss, Glossip was one of four death-row inmates suing the state over its use of an unreliable drug cocktail that contributed to botched executions. In January, the Supreme Court issued a stay and agreed to hear his case; in a bitterly split 5–4 decision, the Court ruled that Oklahoma could continue to use the procedure. States across the nation have struggled to obtain execution drugs because pharmaceutical companies have been pressured to stop selling them to prisons for lethal injections.

But when the state sought to execute Glossip on September 16, new evidence suggesting that he’d been framed by his codefendant prompted a state court to stay his execution again, a mere three hours before it was carried out. The details of its shipment to Virginia were first revealed in a court filing by Richard Glossip, who is set to be executed in Oklahoma on Sept. 30 barring another last-minute reprieve. Previously Texas has stated that they have a supplier, but the three bottles sold to Virginian do not list a lab or pharmacy on the label and the invoice lists the TDCJ as the seller.. But since that case has been tied up in appeals, the questions has remained each time Texas somehow finds more pentobarbital to kill death row inmates: Who’s selling Texas the drugs?

The last execution in Oklahoma was on Jan. 15 of this year using a 3-drug lethal cocktail including midazolam to execute Charles Warner, a 46-year-old black man. In the filing, Fairchild’s attorneys argue that Oklahoma prison officials should consider other lethal injection options besides midazolam, the drug used in the state’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett last year. Three governors in capital states have announced that there will be no executions while they’re in office; a fourth has put a halt to executions pending further review.

Even longtime supporters of the death penalty, including former prosecutors and state attorneys general, are announcing their opposition with increasing frequency, in part due to the recognition that our system of justice is far more fallible than they once believed. Buzzfeed reports that a TDCJ spokesman wouldn’t comment on how the pentobarbital was made, but did confirm that Texas provided the drug to Virginia prison officials.

The first drug is supposed to be an anesthetic that knocks the prisoner out; the second is a paralytic that prevents all movement; the third causes searing pain and stops the heart. The labels on the vials, shown in a photograph attached to the Oklahoma court filing, don’t identify a pharmacy and show an April 2016 expiration date. In recent years, states have had increasing difficulty obtaining an anesthetic, primarily because these drugs are largely manufactured in European countries that long ago abandoned capital punishment, and these companies are increasingly wary of supplying drugs to kill rather than heal.

The idea of a state-run lab making its own death penalty drugs is something Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster raised last year, although many wondered how it could be done. And in Oklahoma, condemned inmate Clayton Lockett awoke during the execution process after receiving a large dose of midazolam and suffered greatly before his death. Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia sharply questioned Glossip’s counsel and charged that the pressure placed on the drug companies by death-penalty abolitionists was responsible for the lack of reliable anesthetic drugs.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out inaccuracies in the state’s brief, and Justice Elena Kagan argued that if midazolam failed to sedate, the inmate would feel as if he were being burned alive. On June 29, the conservative majority upheld Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, concluding that there was not a “substantial risk of serious pain” necessary to establish an Eighth Amendment violation.

Justice Sotomayor’s stinging 31-page dissent, joined by Justices Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, vigorously asserted that Glossip’s evidence established a substantial risk of cruel and unusual punishment. Another Nixon appointee, Harry Blackmun, wrote in 1994 that he would no longer “tinker with the machinery of death.” And in 2008, John Paul Stevens wrote that his review of hundreds of cases had persuaded him that the penalty is both profoundly unworkable and unconstitutional.

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