Report: Oklahoma May Have Used Wrong Drug In Previous Execution

Thursday, October 8th 2015, 1:55 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's governor says no executions will take place in the state until she has "complete confidence" in the system as it comes to light that a previous execution reportedly was carried out against protocol.

Questions arose last week on convicted killer Richard Glossip's execution date. Officials said they noticed the wrong drug was sent to the state for the lethal injection cocktail. Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay for Glossip so protocol could be examined.

The corrections department said it didn't realize the wrong drug had been sent because DOC is not authorized by state or federal law to store or possess execution chemicals other than on the day of the execution.

9/30/2015 Related Story: Gov. Fallin Grants Stay Of Execution For Richard Glossip

Fallin made new comments on Thursday after The Oklahoman reported that prison officials used the wrong drug when the state executed inmate Charles Warner in January. The governor said she wasn't informed that potassium acetate may have been used on Warner until last week, when she halted another execution because potassium acetate was delivered instead of potassium chloride.

Fallin says the doctor and pharmacist working with the corrections department said the two drugs are "medically interchangeable."

Death penalty experts said last week that potassium acetate had never been used in a U.S. execution before.

The governor and attorney general both have said they are concerned with following the procedures in place when putting inmates to death.

Fallin says the state attorney general's office is conducting an inquiry into the Warner execution and that she's "fully supportive" of the investigation.

An autopsy shows that the wrong drug when it put Warner to death.

The Oklahoman reported Thursday that corrections officials used potassium acetate -- not potassium chloride, as required under the state's protocol -- to execute Charles Frederick Warner.

10/1/2015 Related Story: Gov. Fallin's Office Releases FAQ Sheet Regarding Glossip Execution Stay

Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin issued a last-minute stay of execution for inmate Richard Glossip after officials discovered that potassium acetate had been delivered.

Robert Patton, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said medical experts told them the drugs are interchangeable, but he did not want to break protocol.

"I said stop,” Patton said. “That's what the protocol is supposed to do. Nothing failed in the protocol. The protocol worked exactly as it was supposed to work. I had a question. I used the word stop."

After Fallin issued the stay of execution, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt then asked the Court of Appeals to halt the next three executions, including Glossip's, while the state seeks answers.

The autopsy says the items used in Warner's execution included 12 empty vials labeled "single dose Potassium Acetate Injection."

Potassium chloride, which stops the heart, is the final drug in the state's protocol.

After receiving the first drug in the series, midazolam, Warner said, "My body is on fire," but showed no other signs of distress and was pronounced dead after 18 minutes.

10/1/2015 Related Story: AG Letters Prior To Glossip Execution Detail Drug Cocktail

Read Gov. Fallin’s complete statement below:

"Last Wednesday, in the early afternoon on the day of Richard Glossip's scheduled execution, the Department of Corrections consulted with the attorney general's office and then called my office to say they had received a drug called potassium acetate instead of the drug potassium chloride.  This was the first time that myself or anyone in my office had been notified of potassium acetate.  According to the DOC staff, the doctor working with the agency as well as the pharmacist assured the DOC that the two drugs are medically interchangeable. The active ingredient is potassium which, when injected in large quantities, stops the heart.

As an act of precaution, the attorney general and I decided to stop the execution. During the discussion of the delay of the execution it became apparent that DOC may have used potassium acetate in the execution of Charles Warner in January of this year. I was not aware nor was anyone in my office aware of that possibility until the day of Richard Glossip's scheduled execution. The attorney general's office is conducting an inquiry into the Warner execution and I am fully supportive of that inquiry. It is imperative that the attorney general obtain the information he needs to make sure justice is served competently and fairly.

Moving forward, the attorney general, the Department of Corrections and my office will work cooperatively to address these issues. Until we have complete confidence in the system, we will delay any further executions."

Statement from Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt:

“While it is the policy of my office not to comment on pending investigations, as I stated last Thursday in a pleading to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, we are evaluating ‘the events that transpired on September 30, 2015, ODOC’s acquisition of a drug contrary to protocol, and ODOC’s internal procedures relative to the protocol. The State has a strong interest in ensuring that the execution protocol is strictly followed.’ I want to assure the public that our investigation will be full, fair and complete and includes not only actions on September 30, but any and all actions prior, relevant to the use of potassium acetate and potassium chloride.”

An attorney for Glossip released the following statement:

"We cannot trust Oklahoma to get it right or to tell the truth. The State’s disclosure that it used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride during the execution of Charles Warner yet again raises serious questions about the ability of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to carry out executions. The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the State says potassium acetate was used. We will explore this in detail through the discovery process in the federal litigation," said Dale Baich, Assistant Federal Public Defender, District of Arizona, and one of the attorneys for Petitioners in Glossip v. Gross.