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Oklahoma carries out first execution since botched lethal injection in April

Lawyers for condemned Oklahoma killer Charles Warner argued the state's execution drug blend is still problematic.

By Frances Burns and Danielle Haynes

OKLAHOMA CITY, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Oklahoma on Thursday put to death Charles Warner, nine months after he was given a stay because of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

The lethal injection took place at 7:28 p.m. local time after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a stay of execution.

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Warner's lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court for more delay after a nine-month stay. They argue that Oklahoma has not guaranteed that their latest execution protocol will work smoothly.

Warner's execution was originally scheduled for April 29, 2014, immediately after Lockett's. But Lockett was still alive more than half an hour after the execution drugs were administered and died only after officials decided to halt the process.

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A former general counsel to the corrections department, Mike Oakley, told investigators last year that there was pressure before the execution because Gov. Mary Fallin and the attorney general were up for reelection.

All executions in Oklahoma were postponed. Lawyers for Warner and for three inmates whose executions have been scheduled for Jan. 29, Feb. 19 and March 5, argue that midazolam, the first drug administered to Lockett and still the first in Oklahoma's three-drug execution mix, is not an effective sedative.

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The second and third drugs are rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Dale Baich, representing Warner said the potassium chloride "would feel like liquid fire coursing through a person's veins" if midazolam does not do its job, while the rocuronium bromide would make the condemned inmate feel suffocation.

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John Hadden, an assistant attorney general, argued during a court hearing that midazolam can be used.

"It's not as good as some other drugs in some respects, but it doesn't mean that it's unconstitutional or it's ineffective," he said. "It merely means it doesn't work the same. 'Different' is not unconstitutional."

Warner, 47, was sentenced to death in 2003 for killing 11-month-old Adrianna Waller in 1997 through sexual and physical abuse.

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Fewer inmates were put to death in the United States in 2014 than in any year in the previous two decades. While polls suggest the public still supports the death penalty and Lockett's death and other problematic executions have had little effect on opinion, they also find that people are more willing to accept life with no parole as an alternative.

Florida also held an execution Thursday, putting to death Johnny Shane Kormondy, 42, who was convicted of killing a man in a 1993 home invasion. The state used the same three-drug combination as Oklahoma. Georgia held the first execution of the year Tuesday.

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Shonda Waller, Adrianna's mother, told an interviewer last year she does not want Warner executed.

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"That would dishonor my daughter," she said in January. "It would dishonor me and everything I believe in."

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