Oklahoma agrees to hold off executions until at least 2016

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Oklahoma Delays Execution; Drug Didn't Match Protocols

No executions will be scheduled in Oklahoma until at least next year, as the attorney general's office investigates why the state used the wrong drug during a lethal injection in January and nearly did so again last month, the office said Friday.

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Attorney General Scott Pruitt made the announcement while he and several death row inmates' attorneys asked a federal judge to suspend a lawsuit that challenges Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol. The judge agreed after both sides said they wanted the case put on hold while Pruitt investigates how the state twice got the wrong drug.

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The agreement came the same day that officials in Arkansas — where a judge halted all scheduled executions last week — asked the state Supreme Court to allow lethal injections to resume next week. Inmates there are challenging a state law that allows prison officials not to disclose where they get execution drugs. Oklahoma has a similar law.

The latest investigation into Oklahoma executions came after Gov. Mary Fallin called off the execution of Richard Glossip just hours before his lethal injection was scheduled to begin on Sept. 30. Fallin stepped in when prison officials discovered they had potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, the specified final drug in Oklahoma's three-drug lethal injection process.

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Botched Oklahoma Execution --updated with first execution since
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Oklahoma agrees to hold off executions until at least 2016
In its first lethal injection since botching the execution of Clayton Lockett last year, Oklahoma executed convicted killer Charles Warner on Thursday night, after the Supreme Court denied his last minute stay of execution request.
Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, announces the time of death of inmate Charles Warner to the media at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Warner was executed for killing a baby in 1997, in the state's first lethal injection since a botched one last spring. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 photo, the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla. Oklahoma plans to resume executions Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, after botching its last one and will use the same three-drug method as a Florida lethal injection scheduled for the same day. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Media witness Sean Murphy, right, of the Associated Press, gives a report of the execution of Charles Warner to the rest of the media in McAlester, Okla, following the execution, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Looking on from left are the other four media witness, Parker Perry, Tess Maune, Abby Broiles and Morgan Chesky. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
FILE - This June 29, 2011 photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Charles Warner. Warner is scheduled to be executed Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 for the 1997 killing of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter. (AP Photo/Oklahoma Department of Corrections, File)
In this Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 photo, Scott Crow of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, points out the opening where the lines of drugs being administered to the inmate come into the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Brittnie Hackler, right, warden's assistant at Jackie Brannon Correction Center, draws a name from those media wishing to witness the execution of Charles Warner at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Holding the basket is Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Department of Corrections. At left is Terri Watkins, director of communications for the Department of Corrections. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Media witness Sean Murphy, right, of the Associated Press, gives a report of the execution of Charles Warner to the rest of the media in McAlester, Okla, following the execution, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. With Murphy are, from left, the other four media witness, Parker Perry, Tess Maune, Abby Broiles and Morgan Chesky. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
FILE - This July 25, 2014 file photo shows bottles of the sedative midazolam at a hospital pharmacy in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma plans to resume executions Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, after botching its last one and will use the same three-drug method as a Florida lethal injection scheduled for the same day. The drug mixture begins with the sedative midazolam and includes the same drugs used in Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney and moaned after he’d been declared unconscious. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - This June 29, 2011 file photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, shows Clayton Lockett. The botched execution of Lockett, and the gruesome details of him writhing and moaning before dying of a heart attack, has outraged death penalty opponents, raised the potential of more court challenges and received international attention. (AP Photo/Oklahoma Department of Corrections, File)
A news van arrives at the front gate of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for the scheduled execution of Charles Warner in McAlester, Okla, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Warner is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time for the murder and rape of 11-month old Adriana Waller in 1997 in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
This Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 photo shows the viewing area in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. Behind the mirrored glass at left is where the viewing area for victim's witness are seated. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
This Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 photo shows equipment that monitors the breathing and heart rate of the inmate in the chemical room of the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Regina VanBlaricom, left, procedures officer and acting warren's assistant, uses a hand-held metal detector to check a media witness, right, before the witnesses are taken to the viewing area of the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, for the execution of Charles Warner in McAlester, Okla, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
File - This Oct. 9, 2014 file photo, shows an arm restraint on the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. Attorneys for 21 death row inmates who will be in a federal court this week challenging Oklahoma's lethal injection procedure outlined their strategy in court documents that reveal grisly new details in the botched execution of an inmate in April, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, announces the time of death of inmate Charles Warner to the media at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Warner was executed for the murder and rape of 11-month old Adriana Waller in 1997 in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
FILE - In this April 30, 2014 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, front, issues a statement to the media on the Execution of Clayton Lockett as Oklahoma Secretary of Safety and Security Michael C. Thompson, back, listens from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The botched execution of Lockett, and the gruesome details of him writhing and moaning before dying of a heart attack, has outraged death penalty opponents, raised the potential of more court challenges and received international attention. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, File)
Dr. Jonathan Weisbuch holds up a copy of the American Medical Association policy on physicians and capital punishment at his home on Friday, May 2, 2014, in Phoenix. Dr. Weisbuch has weighed in on the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma of inmate Clayton Lockett, right, saying any doctors involved in the execution "have an ethical and moral responsibility to remain as far from the execution chamber as possible." (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Robert Patton, director of Oklahoma's prisons, speaks during a Board of Corrections meeting in Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 1, 2014. Oklahoma prison officials tried for 51 minutes to find a vein in a death row inmate's arms and feet before inserting an IV through the man's groin ahead of a botched execution this week, the state's prisons chief said Thursday in a report urging more oversight of executions. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Robert Patton, director of Oklahoma's prisons, speaks during a Board of Corrections meeting in Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 1, 2014. Oklahoma prison officials tried for 51 minutes to find a vein in a death row inmate's arms and feet before inserting an IV through the man's groin ahead of a botched execution this week, the state's prisons chief said Thursday in a report urging more oversight of executions. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
One of the attorneys for Charles Warner, who was scheduled to be executed after Clayton Lockett Tuesday night, Lanita Henricksen issues a statement to the media as State Senator Connie Johnson, right, listens about the possible execution of her client from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Lockett apparently died of a massive heart attack during his botched execution. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Brady Henderson, left, of the ACLU and attorney David Slane, right, issues a statement on the Oklahoma Death Penalty from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Lockett apparently died of a massive heart attack during his botched execution. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Attorney David Slane, left, speaks to the media on the execution of Clayton Lockett as State Senator Connie Johnson, right, listens from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Lockett apparently died of a massive heart attack during his botched execution. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
One of the attorneys for Charles Warner, who was scheduled to be executed after Clayton Lockett Tuesday night, Lanita Henricksen issues a statement to the media on the possible execution of her client from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Lockett apparently died of a massive heart attack during his botched execution. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma State Senator Connie Johnson, left, and House of Represenatives Seneca Scott, right, issues a statement on the Execution of Clayton Lockett and the Oklahoma death penalty from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Lockett apparently died of a massive heart attack during his botched execution. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, front, issues a statement to the media on the Execution of Clayton Lockett as Oklahoma Secretary of Safety and Security Michael C. Thompson, back, listens from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Lockett apparently died of a massive heart attack during his botched execution. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
White House press secretary Jay Carney gestures as he answers questions during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Carney was asked several questions about the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this April 17, 2014, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in Washington. Obama says the botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate highlights significant problems with the death penalty, and he's asking the attorney general for a review. Obama says he found inmate Clayton Lockett's execution on April 29 "deeply troubling." Lockett convulsed violently during the execution and tried to lift his head after a doctor declared him unconscious. He later died of an apparent heart attack. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
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A week later, a newly released autopsy report showed that Oklahoma used potassium acetate to execute Charles Warner in January, contradicting what the state publicly said it had used. Warner had originally been scheduled to die in April 2014, the same night as Clayton Lockett, who writhed and moaned before dying 43 minutes after his initial injection. Lockett's botched execution also prompted the state to put executions on hold amid an investigation.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has issued indefinite stays for Glossip and two other inmates who were set for execution this year.

Friday's court filing said Pruitt won't request any execution dates until at least 150 days after his investigation is complete, the results are made public, and his office receives notice that the prisons department can comply with the state's execution protocol.

"My office does not plan to ask the court to set an execution date until the conclusion of its investigation," Pruitt said in a statement.

An attorney for the inmates didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The autopsy report prepared after Warner's execution on Jan. 15 said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner received two syringes labeled "potassium chloride," but that the vials used to fill the syringes were labeled "single dose Potassium Acetate Injection." The execution log said the state used potassium chloride to stop Warner's heart, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.


The next inmate scheduled to die was Glossip, but the governor stepped in after learning that a pharmacist — whose identity is shielded by state law — had given the prison potassium acetate. Prison authorities contacted the supplier, "whose professional opinion was that potassium acetate is medically interchangeable with potassium chloride at the same quantity," Oklahoma prisons director Robert Patton said at the time.

But experts on pharmaceuticals and chemistry told the AP that differences between the two forms could be relevant. They noted that potassium chloride is more quickly absorbed by the body and that more potassium acetate may be needed to achieve the same effect.

Questions about execution drugs also prompted the delay in Arkansas, where a judge has delayed all eight of the state's scheduled lethal injections through January. Death row inmates filed a lawsuit alleging the state's secrecy law violates a contract in an earlier settlement with prisoners that required information about execution drugs be released to inmates.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium earlier this year. Calling the current system of capital punishment error-prone and expensive, Wolf said the moratorium would remain in effect at least until he receives a report from a legislative commission that has been studying the topic for about four years.

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