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Lawsuit truce called until Spring 2016 on Oklahoma drug debacle – Glossip, Cole and Grant executions on hold

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Photo provided.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Photo provided.

by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor

OKLAHOMA CITY — An agreement has been made between attorneys for the state of Oklahoma and three death row inmates that all executions — and a court challenge the government faced — are on hold until an undetermined date in 2016.

The office of Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he and attorneys for three death row inmates have agreed “to administratively close” the federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s execution protocol.

Dale Baich, an attorney who has helped to challenge the controversial protocol, said, “We agreed to stay the federal case until any investigations are completed and other benchmarks are met.”

The state, through Pruitt’s office, is investigating the lethal injection process.

The agreed dismissal was filed early Friday (October 16) in federal court for approval by the presiding judge. The dismissal will end the litigation.

“As I have previously stated, my office is conducting a full and thorough investigation into all aspects of the Department of Corrections’ handling of executions. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted the state’s request for an indefinite stay of all scheduled executions,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt said.

“My office does not plan to ask the court to set an execution date until the conclusion of its investigation. This makes it unnecessary at this time to litigate the legal questions at issue in Glossip v. Gross,” Pruitt concluded, in a prepared statement circulated to The City Sentinel and other news organizations.

As reported by Cary Aspinwall of The Frontier, a court filing in the Western District of Oklahoma Federal Court states that in the interests of “judicial economy and comity,” the attorney general will not seek an execution date for any of the condemned prisoners, which include Richard Glossip, Benjamin Cole and John Grant, until their attorneys are provided with the results of an ongoing state investigation and any changes made to the protocol as a result.

Once that information is available, the attorney general has agreed not to seek an execution date until at least 150 days after the attorneys for the death row inmates receive the information.

In the case of Richard E. Glossip, lawyers continue to assert actual innocence  for the man, who has come within hours of execution more than once.

The latest development means that spring 2016 would be the earliest any execution could be scheduled.

The legal battle regarding Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, in the case of Glossip v. Gross , intensified after it was discovered that the wrong drug — potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride — was obtained for Glossip’s scheduled execution on September 30. A recently release autopsy report revealed the drug was actually used in January in the lethal injection death of Charles Warner.

As of late, Oklahoma has become the focus of much criticism as to whether they “can properly and lawfully administer the sentence of death.” Many foes of capital punishment hope the controversy will bring about an end to executions in the Sooner State. Some conservatives, including Enid attorney Tim Gungoll, support a moratorium on executions.

A copy of the “Joint Stipulation for Administrative Closing of Case Document” is available here. The Closing Order can be read here.

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