Sixteen of 47 death-row inmates have exhausted appeals and await execution dates but 2018 is the third year that the state has put no one to death after botched executions.
Oklahoma, a state with one of the nation’s busiest death chambers in recent decades, will enter its third year without an execution in 2018 while officials fine tune its procedure for putting condemned inmates to death, the Associated Press reports. Attorney General Mike Hunter expects more clarity on the state’s new lethal injection protocols in the next two or three weeks. “We need to feel some urgency, but we also need to get it done right,” he said. “I’d say both of those things are equally important.” Of the 2,817 death row inmates in 32 states, 47 of them are in Oklahoma. Like many death penalty states, Oklahoma has struggled in the past decade to obtain the lethal drugs used in executions as manufacturers, including many in Europe, have said they don’t want their products used to kill people.
Oklahoma put executions on hold two years ago after several mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 and drug mix-ups in 2015 that led to one inmate being executed with the wrong drug and another inmate just moments away from being led to the death chamber before prison officials realized the same wrong drug had been delivered for his execution. Sixteen death row inmates have exhausted their federal appeals and are awaiting dates to be sent to the death chamber. A federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s execution protocols as unconstitutional remains dormant but is expected to be reactivated once the new protocols are released, said Dale Baich, a federal public defender representing a group of death row inmates. The death penalty has bipartisan support in the Oklahoma Legislature, and more than two-thirds of state voters supported a pro-death penalty question on the ballot in 2016.