Oklahoma Judge: Lethal injection secrecy law is unconstitutional

Documents obtained by The Colorado Independent were used as court exhibits

Oklahoma Judge: Lethal injection secrecy law is unconstitutional

An Oklahoma County judge ruled today that Oklahoma’s law shielding the identities of suppliers of execution drugs is unconstitutional.

Judge Patricia Parrish said the secrecy law denies death row inmates access to the courts, where they can argue whether their executions constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Parrish particularly noted in her decision that she herself, a district court judge, could not get information about the lethal injections.

Exhibits in Wednesday’s proceedings included documents from an exposé by Katie Fretland published last week in The Colorado Independent. Emails in the document referred to problems obtaining lethal injection drugs, which have been yanked off the market by drug companies who don’t want their products used in executions.

The e-mails showed that in 2011 two Oklahoma assistant attorneys generals joked about how Texas was seeking legal help in search of lethal injection drugs after that state had refused to assist Oklahoma. One suggested that, in exchange for their help, they should get 50-yard-line tickets to a football rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas. The other joked that the University of Texas should throw the games in appreciation of Oklahoma’s help on lethal injection issues.

Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham wrote he would “forgive and forget with sideline passes for Team Pentobarbital (you, me, Martha, the Warden, Mike Oakley, plus anyone else we can think of who is deserving) to the 2011 OU-Texas game plus an on-field presentation of a commemorative plaque at halftime recognizing Oklahoma’s on-going contributions to propping up the Texas system of capital punishment.”

Other documents obtained the report showed a failed attempt to get the drugs from the state of Oregon – an issue discussed in court Wednesday.

The Independent story also revealed that Oklahoma inmates have sometimes died from the first drug, an anesthetic, administered in the three-drug method used in executions. The remaining drugs were injected into at least nine mens’ dead bodies “for disposal purposes,” according to chain of custody documents.

The state plans to appeal Wednesday’s decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, while defense attorneys plan to ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the April executions of their clients, Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett.

[Photo by Ken Piorkowski]

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