Oklahoma prepares to execute two men on same night for first time in almost 80 years

Lawyer for one of two men set for execution in Oklahoma says there is a "climate of secrecy and political posturing."
By Frances Burns  |  Updated April 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY, April 29 (UPI) -- Oklahoma prepared to put two men to death Tuesday after days of maneuvering between the courts, the governor and the state legislature.

Clayton Derrell Lockett, 38, who was originally scheduled for execution a week ago, was set to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. for killing Stephanie Neiman, 19, during a bungled home invasion in Perry in 1999. Charles Frederick Warner, 46, is scheduled to follow him two hours later for killing his girlfriend's young daughter in 1997.

Lawyers for Lockett and Warner challenged the Oklahoma law allowing the state to withhold the name of the compounding pharmacy providing the execution drugs. A district judge ordered a full hearing, and the state Supreme Court ruled on April 21 that the executions should be delayed.

The court lifted its stay after Gov. Mary Fallin, in an executive order, said the justices had exceeded their authority. Oklahoma has two high courts, and the Court of Criminal Appeals is supposed to be the highest arbiter in criminal cases.

Madeline Cohen, Warner's lawyer, said in a statement the executions would take place "in a climate of secrecy and political posturing."

"In addition to the secrecy surrounding these executions, intense and inappropriate political pressure on Oklahoma’s judiciary from the Oklahoma Governor and Legislature has put a permanent stain on this entire process," she wrote.

"Following an unconscionable 48-hour period of political intimidation, including the governor attempting to override the Court’s stay of execution, and the introduction in the Oklahoma House of Representatives of articles of impeachment against the Justices who voted for the stay, the state’s highest court rescinded the stays. In a more appropriate political climate, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court could have taken a thorough look at this secrecy and ensured that all laws were carefully followed. Instead, we will never know."

Oklahoma has executed 110 people since resuming capital punishment in 1990, more than any other state except Texas and Virginia. The state held its last double execution in 1937.

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