Oklahoma used the wrong drug to execute Charles Warner in January, according to autopsy records obtained by the The Oklahoman on Thursday.
The state uses a three-drug cocktail to execute death-row inmates. First, the sedative midazolam is injected, followed by pancuronium bromide, a paralytic. The third drug, potassium chloride, is then used to stop the heart. But according to the autopsy records, Oklahoma used vials of potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride in Warner’s lethal injection. The state’s execution protocol only allows the use of potassium chloride.
The drug mix-up first came to light when Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a last-minute stay of execution for Richard Glossip on September 30 after corrections officials discovered they had purchased potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride. On October 2, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals imposed an indefinite stay on all executions at the request of the state attorney general as investigations proceed.
This is the first known execution in the U.S. to use a wrong lethal-injection drug, according to Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “But before today, we had never heard of a state using potassium acetate in an execution, either,” he added. “This is one of the problems with the secrecy procedures that many states now have in place.”