MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

March 27, 2014

Execution law ruled unconstitutional

Judge bases decision on drug secrecy aspect

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge voided the state’s execution law Wednesday, agreeing with inmates that a “veil of secrecy” preventing them from seeking information about the drugs used in lethal injections violated their rights under the state constitution.

Oklahoma is among the states that have promised companies confidentiality if they will provide the sedatives or paralyzing agents used to execute prisoners, and it went beyond that to prevent information from being revealed even in court.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish ruled Wednesday that preventing inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner from pressing their claims in a courtroom went too far.

“I think that the secrecy statute is a violation of due process because access to the courts has been denied,” Parrish ruled. Her decision did not undermine their convictions or death sentences — just the state’s procedures for executions.

Lockett is set to die April 22 and Warner a week later. Lawyers for the state promised an appeal, but Parrish’s ruling could have broader implications.

“Judge Parrish’s decision is a major outcome that should have a reverberating impact on other states that are facing similar kinds of transparency issues,” said Deborah W. Denno, a professor of law at Fordham University.

Arkansas and Missouri keep execution information secret, and Texas officials refused last week to say where they had recently obtained a batch of execution drugs.

Attorneys for two Texas inmates facing execution next month with a new batch of pentobarbital obtained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice filed a lawsuit Wednesday demanding the prison agency disclose the identity of the new supplier.

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