After court drama, Oklahoma to have 2 executions
- Article by: SEAN MURPHY
- Associated Press
- April 24, 2014 - 5:05 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma plans to hold its first double execution in nearly 80 years, Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday.
The move comes a day after the state Supreme Court removed one of the final obstacles, ruling late Wednesday that Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them. The inmates had sought that information through a civil lawsuit.
"The defendants had their day in court. The court has made a decision," Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. "Two men that do not contest their guilt in heinous murders will now face justice, and the families and friends of their victims will now have closure."
The Oklahoma Supreme Court also dissolved a stay of execution it had issued earlier in the week in a sharply divided and much criticized 5-4 decision that put the state's two highest courts at odds.
Because the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal matters, Fallin and others accused the state's high court of initially overstepping its civil-only bounds — to the point that some legislators called for impeaching the five justices who had voted to delay the executions.
"This ruling shows that our legal system works," Fallin said of the high court's latest decision.
Defense attorney Seth Day said in a statement that without knowing the source of the drugs, the public has no way of knowing whether the execution will be carried out in a "constitutional and humane manner."
"It's not even known whether the lethal injection drugs to be used were obtained legally, and nothing is known about their source, purity, or efficacy, among other questions," he said. "Oklahoma's extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection undermines our courts and democracy."
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is working on specifics and logistics of how Tuesday's executions will be carried out, Fallin said.
It's rare for multiple executions to happen in one day, with only Arkansas, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas doing so since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.
"I think it's actually becoming less common because states have deliberately spaced things out," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the center, which opposes capital punishment. "It takes a toll on a prison and its personnel."
The most recent occurrence of two inmates being executed on the same day was Aug. 9, 2000, in Texas. The last time Oklahoma did it was June 11, 1937, when convicted murderers Charlie Sands and Leon Siler were electrocuted.
Arkansas is the only state that has executed three inmates on the same day since 1976: once in 1994 and again in 1997. In both instances, all three executions were carried out in less than three hours, according to the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said the agency intends to have a plan for the executions ready by Friday and is preparing for "any eventuality."
"It wouldn't be the first time there has been last-minute changes," Massie said.
The two men, who have exhausted all of their appeals, were not challenging their conviction or sentence in their lawsuit. Attorneys for the two men did not return telephone messages left Thursday seeking information about any further appeals that could be filed.
Lockett, 38, was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999. Warner, 46, was found guilty of raping and killing his roommate's 11-month-old child in 1997.
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