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Oklahoma court rejects death-row inmates’ claims

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that two death row inmates are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.

In rejecting the inmates’ claims, the court also lifted a stay of execution that it had granted earlier in the week in a case that placed Oklahoma’s two highest courts at odds and prompted calls for impeaching justices on the Supreme Court.

Wednesday’s decision paves the way for death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner to receive a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

A stay issued Tuesday by Gov. Mary Fallin remains in place for Lockett, but only until April 29, the same day Warner is scheduled to die.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz has said the governor is still reviewing the court’s ruling and has not made a decision on what she will do. Weintz has said it is possible both men could be executed on April 29.

The nine-member Oklahoma Supreme Court caused an uproar Monday when it issued a 5-4 opinion that delayed the executions until the inmates’ claims over drug-source secrecy were handled.

The justices are restricted to ruling on civil matters. But the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, which handles cases from inmates, said it wasn’t authorized to weigh in on the request for a stay because the inmates challenged the execution procedures in civil court, not criminal.

A lower court had ruled that preventing the inmates from seeking information about the drugs used in lethal injections violated their rights under the state constitution.

“There was no need for the trial court to declare the secrecy provision unconstitutional in order for the condemned prisoners to discover the identity of the drug or drugs to be used in these inmates’ executions,” the Supreme Court wrote Wednesday.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Steven Taylor said the inmates’ claims are “frivolous and not grounded in the law.”

“It is my view that from the very beginning this so called ‘civil’ litigation has been frivolous and a complete waste of time and resources of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma,” Taylor wrote.

 
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