Double Execution: Two Death-Row Inmates to Die Hours Apart In Midst of Lethal Drug Shortage

A double execution will take place Tuesday night when two death-row inmates will die just hours apart in Oklahoma. A report by reveals that this execution will be the first time since Texas executed two death-row inmates 14 years ago.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner are the two convicted criminals set to die by lethal injection in the double execution. The incident represents a temporary end to a “constitutional crisis” in Oklahoma between Rep. Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding secrecy behind the state’s supply of lethal-injection drugs. Last week an intense litigation resulted in the governor issuing a seven-day stay on Lockett’s execution, which was originally scheduled for April 22. Fallin’s decision in this matter was a de facto override from the court’s decision and drew fire from legal experts when some began declaring that the state was in the middle of a constitutional crisis. A double execution is the end result of this unfinished conflict and represents double or more concerns on the issue.

What has caused secrecy surrounding substances to carry out the death penalty? Lethal-drug shortages. European manufacturers are making it harder for the US to acquire drugs planned for lethal injections. States are left with few options. Oklahoma, in addition to Texas and Missouri, are relying on “secret compounding pharmacies to produce the lethal cocktails,” according to The National Journal. Missouri attorney, Cheryl Pilate, has represented inmates challenging the state’s drug secrecy. She voiced her concerns in early April over the crisis:

“We don’t know where the drugs are coming from. They could be coming from a veterinarian, some dark corner of the Internet, or someone working in their basement.”

Opponents of the death penalty argue that this type of secrecy violates a prisoner’s right to know how he’ll die. It could also be a violation of the Eight Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.

With a double death soon to take place, this has highlighted a big problem for Oklahoma. The double execution for Lockett and Warner will involve a three-drug cocktail that’s never been used in the state, but has in Florida. The combination in Florida called for five times the amount of midazolam, the drug which acts as a sedative. It’s unknown at this point what all is included in the double mixture for two executions Tuesday night.

Execution protocol in Oklahoma changed last month in order to allow the state’s Department of Corrections to use “any of five lethal-injection procedures.” The state refuses to disclose the manufacturers of those five lethal drugs. Oklahoma cites a supplier-secrecy law from 2011 which law officials insist is a key factor in convincing companies, under the condition of anonymity, to supply them with lethal drugs for execution purposes. In the case of having a double dosage over two inmates being put to death, it has attracted even more scrutiny.

The National Journal added in its report that Oklahoma’s last double execution happened in 1937.

[Image via NBC Bay Area]