Oklahoma death row inmates' attorneys allege Texas agency is making its own … | us news

Oklahoma death row inmates’ attorneys allege Texas agency is making its own …

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional?.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Attorneys for the state of Oklahoma say recently emerged witnesses who claim a death row inmate was framed are “inherently suspect,” and that their claims don’t merit a new hearing ahead of the inmate’s execution next week. Texas prison officials acknowledged on Friday that they have supplied at least one other state with execution drugs — but the original source of those drugs remains shrouded in secrecy.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.

In a court filing Thursday, Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office argued that former inmates who have come forward to support Richard Glossip’s claim of innocence have a checkered past and could only offer questionable testimony. The disclosure came the day after a death-row inmate claimed in court papers that Texas is now making its own lethal injection drugs and had shared vials of them with Virginia. 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. Glossip was just hours away from being executed on Sept. 16 when the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered his execution halted so it could review the new claims. Among the newly submitted evidence is a signed affidavit from Joseph Tapley, who said he shared a cell with Sneed in 1997 at the Oklahoma County Jail.

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. Tapley says in the affidavit that Sneed gave “very detailed accounts” of how he killed Van Treese with a baseball bat, and that Sneed never mentioned Glossip or “gave me any indication that someone else was involved.” “Justin Sneed was very concerned about getting the death penalty.

Sneed acted alone because Sneed did not mention an accomplice,” prosecutors say in their court filing, adding that Sneed may not have mentioned Glossip because he “did not want to become known in the jail as a ‘snitch.’” The attorney general’s office also argues that an alleged conversation that happened 20 years ago “does not even come close to being clear and convincing evidence of petitioner’s actual innocence.” Glossip’s lawyers also are fighting in federal court to stop Glossip’s execution by challenging the state’s planned use midazolam. 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. 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. 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. 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. That court also denied relief because Glossip had failed to demonstrate that the state had a viable alternative—essentially faulting his legal team for representing his interests. 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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