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Oklahoma Executions on Stay as State Deliberates Revealing Drug Sources

Clayton Lockett
Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett. |

Two Oklahoma State inmates have won the right to have their executions stayed until they learn exactly what drugs will be used in their executions and where they came from. The Oklahoma Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay the executions until a proper hearing on the lawsuit can be heard.

Clayton Lockett was due to be executed April 22 for the death of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman. The stay came just one day before he was to be put to death. A fellow inmate scheduled to be put to death on April 29 for the death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter has also been temporarily spared.

Last month the state disclosed that it would be using up to five different drug combinations for executions after solutions of pentobarbital have been banned from being sold to the U.S. There has been a shroud of secrecy protecting the pharmacists and pharmacies that provide the drugs used in the executions, much to the dismay of prisoners and their lawyers.

"We are relieved and extremely grateful to the Oklahoma Supreme Court for its reasonable decision to stay the scheduled executions," lawyers Susanna Gattoni and Seth Day said in a statement. "With today's stay, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will be able to fully adjudicate the serious constitutional issues about the extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection procedures in our state."

However, the Supreme Court did promise that Lockett and Warner will be put to death, but they did not say when or how.

"The citizens should not see their criminal justice system derailed and subverted by criminal defendants who have completely exhausted the entire range of appeals and processes required by the US and Oklahoma constitutions due to baseless speculation of theoretical harms raised in improper venues," the state's ruling said.

"The Oklahoma Supreme Court has acted in an extraordinary and unprecedented manner, resulting in a constitutional crisis for our state," Attorney General Scott Pruitt said after the ruling was announced.

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