OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma death row inmates challenging the state's execution method want a federal judge to allow their lawsuit to move forward.
Attorneys for the inmates filed paperwork in U.S. District Court on Wednesday opposing the state's request to put the lawsuit on hold and dismiss all of its defendants except the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Robert Patton, and Oklahoma State Penitentiary warden Anita Trammell.
The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office argues that the drugs and procedures used a botched execution in April do not risk violating the constitutional rights of other death row inmates. The state argues that the inmates' lawsuit is premature and should be stayed because the state's execution protocols are under review and subject to change.
But the longer the lawsuit holds, "the more likely evidence will become stale and individuals may no longer have the recall they previously had," the inmates said in their motion. "This case should proceed in the normal course, discovery should commence and no stay should be ordered at this stage of the proceedings."
No hearing has been scheduled.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 21 Oklahoma death row inmates. It seeks to halt any attempt to execute them using the state's current lethal injection protocols, which the suit alleges presents a risk of severe pain and suffering.
The suit also contends that state officials failed to consult experts in the development of procedures, and that the drugs being used are unsuitable for executions.
The lawsuit was filed after the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett. Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and clenched his teeth for several minutes before a doctor determined there was a problem with an IV in Lockett's groin. The lethal injection was halted, but Lockett died about 43 minutes after the execution began. An autopsy determined he died of a heart attack.
Lockett's execution was the first time Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam as the first in its three-drug combination. The lawsuit contends that drug should not be used because it's possible an inmate would remain aware even after the drug was administered, resulting in severe pain when the next two drugs are injected.
Death-row inmates who filed the lawsuit include Charles Frederick Warner, who had been scheduled to die on the same day as Lockett but whose execution is now scheduled for Nov. 13, and Richard Eugene Glossip, whose execution is set for Nov. 20.