In this April 15, 2008, file photo a wardens assistant at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, walks past the gurney in the execution chamber at left, in McAlester, Okla..

Oklahoma Supreme Court issues stay of execution for two killers


Lingering questions over lethal injection drugs prompted another delay in the planned execution of two convicted murders in Oklahoma.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a stay of execution Monday until officials can provide more details on the deadly cocktail they plan to inject into death-row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner.

The state’s highest court intervened after lawyers for the condemned men filed a renewed application for an emergency stay, just one day before Lockett was scheduled to die. He was found guilty in the 1999 murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman, who was raped, shot and buried alive. 

Melissa Harris-Perry, 4/5/14, 12:28 PM ET

Execution: a shortage of lethal injections

A shortage of one of the drugs that prisons use to execute prisoners has left jails with using other means to kill those on death row. ACLU attorney, Tanya Greene, joins Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss executions in the U.S.

Warner had an execution date set for one week later on April 29. He was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997.

Today’s decision comes after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals blocked the request for a stay last week.

A state law keeps drug makers anonymous, so the two prisoners are fighting back against what they call a “veil of secrecy.”

Oklahoma recently changed its rules for capital punishment, permitting five different drugs combinations to be used in the procedure.

The state reportedly informed inmates’ attorneys that they plan to use a mixture of midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which has never before been tested in the state.

According to the AP, lawyers claimed the prisoners “have received no certifications, testing data, medical opinions or other evidence to support the state’s insistence that these drugs are safe, or to prove that they were acquired legally.”

Many drug manufacturers – particularly in Europe, where there is a long tradition of opposing the death penalty – have stopped selling lethal injection drugs to prisons over ethical concerns, adding to the nationwide shortage and forcing states like Oklahoma to find alternate ingredients to complete the deadly procedure.

Oklahoma Supreme Court issues stay of execution for two killers