Suit by death row inmates challenges secrecy about execution drugs

Feb. 27, 2014 at 3:36 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Oklahoma's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs raises the possibility executions will inflict severe pain, two death row inmates say in a suit.

In a lawsuit filed against the Oklahoma Corrections Department, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner said the "substantial risk" of extreme pain from the drugs violates their constitutional rights, the (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported Thursday.

Warner's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Madeline Cohen, argues the state's secrecy about the drugs it uses prevents death row inmates from learning about their quality.

One of the drugs, pentobarbital, doesn't stop the inmate from feeling pain, Cohen says. The barbiturate is "basically only for optics,"she said, "to make the execution look placid."

During Oklahoma's execution of Michael Lee Wilson in January, he said "I feel my whole body burning." His statement was used Wednesday in the lawsuit by Warner and Lockett.

States were forced to turn to compounding pharmacies for drugs used in executions after the manufacturer of pentobarbital refused to sell it to corrections departments. Products made by compounding pharmacies do not have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Lockett is scheduled for execution March 20; Warner on March 27.

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