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Back to Black: Oklahoma Will Carry On With Ill-Fated Lethal Injections

© AP Photo / Rick BowmerThe execution room is shown Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, Ore
The execution room is shown Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, Ore - Sputnik International
Oklahoma is set to resume executing its death row felons using lethal injections after an eight-month hiatus which was prompted by problems which occurred the last time the state attempted to carry out a death sentence; it will use the same sedative that made the previous procedure go awry.

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MOSCOW, December 23 (Sputnik) – A federal judge in Oklahoma City ruled on Monday that the state can resume using lethal injections to put convicts to death, according to The New York Times report.

It will use the same set of sedatives that caused problems the last time it tried to carry out a death sentence.

Federal District Court Judge Stephen P. Friot denied a request for a preliminary injunction which was requested by a group of 21 Oklahoma death row convicts.

When criminals are sentenced to death in Oklahoma, protocol requires the state to kill them by injecting them with three drugs. The 21 inmates have asked that one of these drugs, midazolam, be removed from the lethal combination, as it caused convict Clayton Locket to suffer unnecessarily during his execution in April 2014.

The judge said that lethal injections are more humane than historical methods like hanging, and that since the sedative in question had been successfully used in a dozen executions elsewhere, it should not be considered new or experimental, according to The New York Times. Nonetheless, “Federal courts should not sit as a board of inquiry as to best practices,” the newspaper quotes him as saying, “The plaintiffs have failed to present a known and available alternative.”

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An occasional isolated episode does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, he added.

On April 29, the execution of Clayton Lockett lasted 43 minutes instead of 15, as planned, with the inmate writhing on the gurney, mumbling and visibly gasping. Lockett's execution was the first in Oklahoma where midazolam was used.

Attorneys for the state maintained that the problems with Lockett's execution were the result of an improperly set single intravenous line that wasn't properly monitored during his execution. They contend that the botched set-up caused the lethal drugs to be administered locally instead of directly into his blood, AP reported.

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However, the lawyers for the Oklahoma prisoners have argued that even when administered properly, midazolam cannot reliably protect the condemned against excruciating pain when the second two drugs are injected. They point to other unusually prolonged executions this year which involved midazolam in Arizona and Ohio.

However, Oklahoma officials noted that Florida has conducted numerous executions using midazolam without evidence of problems or suffering.

In response to the Lockett incident, Oklahoma placed a moratorium on executions after April 29.

Now that the state has re-committed itself to the deadly procedure, it plans to execute four men in three months, starting with Charles F. Warner on January 15.

Oklahoma officials have said that in the future they will inject 500 milligrams of midazolam, compared with the 100 milligrams given to Clayton Lockett.

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