Oklahoma Grand Jury report runs 106 pages, delivering strong criticism of death penalty process
Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
The Oklahoma multi-county grand jury, which began studying the state’s controversial death penalty process last year, issued its report today, Thurs, May 19.
Staff for Attorney General Scott Pruitt delivered the report in the courtroom of Judge Don Deason. The investigative panel began after Oklahoma Corrections Department officials prepared the lethal drug “cocktail” using the wrong ingredients in at least two instances. One of the executions was carried out, when Charles Warner said in his final words: “My body is on fire.” The other was during the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip on September 30, 2015. That execution was delayed, state officials have said, after they learned the wrong chemicals had been prepared to end Glossip’s life.
A summary of the report posted at Fox 25, where reporter Phil Cross has done some of the most detailed television reporting on the issue, said the 106 page report showed the following:
• the director of the Department of Corrections orally modified the execution protocol without authority
• the pharmacist ordered the wrong execution drugs
• the department’s general counsel failed to inventory the execution drugs as mandated by state purchasing requirements
• an agent with the department’s Office of Inspector General failed to inspect the execution drugs while transporting them into the Oklahoma State Penetentiary
• Warden A failed to notify anyone in the department that potassium acetate had been received
• the H Unit Section Chief failed to observe the department had received the wrong execution drugs
• the IV team failed to observe the deaprtment had received the wrong execution drugs; the department’s execution protocol failed to define important terms and lacked controls to ensure the proper execution drugs were obtained and administered
• the governor’s general counsel advocated the department proceed with the Glossip execution using potassium acetate.
“While we are still reviewing today’s report, the state-sponsored investigation confirms things we already knew and fails to address bigger questions for which we still do not have answers,” said Dale Baich, Assistant Federal Public Defender and one of the attorneys for the Oklahoma death row litigants. “What we do know is that secrecy, along with the use of an experimental drug combination, led to at least one botched execution in Oklahoma and a drug mix-up in another. As the state continues to alter its execution protocol, more scrutiny is needed before experimental procedures are carried out in execution chambers.
“More transparency is needed as well as accountability for a pattern of serious mistakes in the administration of the death penalty in the state,” Baich continued.
“An independent, bipartisan commission is beginning its work to examine the death penalty in Oklahoma and the litigation brought by prisoners is about to move forward,” Baich said. “The moratorium on executions should continue in order to allow the commission to complete its study and for the federal litigation to be resolved.”
The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will hold a press conference on Friday, May 20, at the State Capitol 4th Floor Press Room, #432B at 10 a.m. to discuss the grand jury report findings.
Read the entire grand jury report here