The executions of Oklahoma inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were stayed today over concerns that their constitutional rights may be violated over the state's insistence on keeping its execution drug providers secret.
Lockett was scheduled to be executed tomorrow and Warner the following Tuesday. Lawyers for both men have been arguing that Oklahoma's refusal to tell them where it obtained its execution drugs and which drugs would be used in the executions meant it would be impossible to know if the drugs used could cause the condemned to suffer. This also makes it easier for Oklahoma to procure those drugs, as the pharmacies that provide them can't be sued or protested if no one knows who they are. Other states have lost their execution drug pharmacies for this reason.
At the beginning of this month, Oklahoma changed course slightly and revealed which drugs would be used to kill the two prisoners: midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, though in dosages never used in an execution in this country before.
The decision to stay the executions was a close one, with five justices saying yes and four saying no. The stay will last until "final determination of all issues presently pending before this court ... are actively litigated." A hearing has not yet been scheduled.
A spokesman told the AP that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections had not seen the Supreme Court's order and "was still preparing as if Lockett's execution would be held Tuesday." He might want to check on that, like, soon.
Lockett was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman before burying her alive. Warner raped and murdered an 11-month-old baby.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.