OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The Oklahoma attorney general on Thursday sought an indefinite stay of three executions including that of Richard Glossip, whose planned execution a day earlier was stopped at the last minute because of a mix-up with lethal injection drugs.
Scott Pruitt filed the request with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals so the state could examine what went wrong with its execution protocols. Legal experts said the court was expected to grant the request.
In his filing, Pruitt said the office needed to evaluate what happened on Wednesday, when the state received potassium acetate for use in its three-drug protocol instead of the court-approved potassium chloride.
Oklahoma revised its death chamber protocols after a flawed execution last year when medical staff failed to properly place an IV line on convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, who was seen twisting in pain on the death chamber gurney.
He died about 45 minutes after the procedure began because of an accumulation of lethal injection chemicals that had built up in his tissue.
Glossip, 52, was convicted of arranging the 1997 killing of Barry Van Treese, the owner of an Oklahoma City motel that Glossip was managing.
His lawyers said no physical evidence tied Glossip to the crime and that he was convicted largely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who said Glossip hired him to carry out the killing. Sneed received a life sentence.
Glossip has maintained his innocence and his lawyers presented statements in recent days from jail informants who said Sneed confessed to setting up Glossip so he could avoid a death sentence.
One of the drugs Oklahoma planned to use on Glossip, potassium acetate, has not been used in any execution and is not on any execution protocols, said Megan McCracken, an expert on the death penalty at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.
“The Oklahoma Department of Corrections can’t get it right,” said McCracken, a death penalty opponent.
Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said his group received the drugs on Wednesday morning and did not know about the mistake until about two hours before the planned execution. After consulting with the attorney general, Patton asked Governor Mary Fallin to issue a stay, he said in a statement.
Glossip had previously tried to stop his execution by saying another of the drugs used in the mix could cause undue suffering.
Lawyers for Glossip and other Oklahoma death-row inmates had challenged midazolam, saying it could not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and was therefore unsuitable for executions.
“I have to make sure that I clear my name so that way I don’t have to do this again,” Glossip told broadcaster KOCO after Wednesday’s stay.
Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney and Mohammad Zargham