, Muskogee, OK

March 13, 2014

State high court splits execution stay request

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court split and sent to other courts a case brought by two death row inmates seeking to stay their executions and challenging what they say is secrecy surrounding state execution procedures.

The high court forwarded to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals the request by the inmates to stay their executions while they make their challenge.

In an order signed by Chief Justice Tom Colbert, the Supreme Court also remanded the lawsuit from inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner back to Oklahoma County District Court for a hearing.

District Judge Patricia Parrish had ruled Monday that she would not delay the executions, but said she was willing to hear the rest of the lawsuit.

“The courts are just playing hot potato with this case, and we need a judge to rule on two things,” said Madeline Cohen, a federal public defender who was previously involved in the case. “One, can we stop these executions so the case can be heard, and two, whether the state can continue to hide behind this veil of incredible secrecy regarding their execution procedures.”

In their order, the state Supreme Court wrote that the district court does have jurisdiction to hear the merits of the inmates’ lawsuit, but transferred the request for a stay of execution to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Lawyers have until noon Friday to appeal the court’s ruling.

Two justices dissented from the order, saying that the state Court of Criminal Appeals should have exclusive jurisdiction in the case.

Lockett is scheduled to be executed March 20, with Warner’s execution scheduled a week later.

The inmates are suing the state to determine the origins of the lethal drugs to be used to carry out their death penalties.