OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla._Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed paperwork asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to halt the executions of Richard Glossip, Benjamin Cole and John Marion.
Richard Glossip was scheduled to be executed at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, but Governor Mary Fallin halted the execution and granted Glossip a 37-day stay of execution when the Department of Corrections learned it had received potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride. The company supplying the drugs say the two are interchangeable at the same dosage.
Robert Patton, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections director, explained what happened leading up to the execution stay Wednesday.
"The drugs outlined in Oklahoma's execution protocol call for the use of midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The provider informed the department we had access to the necessary drugs approximately one month before the scheduled execution on Sept. 16. At that time an order was placed.
Yesterday, the drugs were received at the facility in McAlester in a sealed box. At approximately 1 p.m., the sealed box was opened by a member of the execution team, where it was discovered we were given midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium acetate.
Contact was immediately made to the provider, whose professional opinion was that potassium acetate is medically interchangeable with potassium chloride at the same quantity. However, by the provider supplying us with potassium acetate, a legal ambiguity was created that needed to be cleared up before moving forward.
After speaking with the provider, a call was made to the attorney general's office for him to be made aware of the situation. The decision was then made to make contact with the governor's office. Contact was then made with a representative in the governor's office.
The discussion turned from the use of the acquired potassium acetate to if we could find the proper dosage of potassium chloride. The determination was made we could not find the proper dosage needed to carry out the scheduled execution.
Out of an abundance of caution, it was my request to Governor Fallin that she grant a stay of the execution. The governor then granted the stay shortly thereafter.
Some questions have been raised as to why the drugs arrive the day of the execution and the answer is because we do not have the state or federal authority to keep the drugs. As for the drugs we acquired for the original Sept. 16 execution, the sealed box was never opened at the facility. After the stay from the Oklahoma Court on Criminal Appeals, the sealed box was returned to the provider.
I would like to thank Governor Fallin for her patience and allowing the department due diligence in finding the proper drugs to carry out executions moving forward."
The governor's office released an FAQ in which they explain some of the facts surrounding the stay of execution.
Q. Why does DOC receive execution chemicals the same day as the execution is carried out?
A. DOC is not authorized by state or federal law to store or possess execution chemicals other than on the day of the execution.
Q. Why did DOC receive potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride?
A. The pharmacist used by DOC could not obtain potassium chloride and instead used the medically appropriate equivalent (potassium acetate) without notifying DOC.
Q. Why was the execution stayed if potassium acetate can be substituted effectively for potassium chloride?
A. The decision to delay the execution was made because of the legal ambiguity surrounding the use of potassium acetate. Out of an abundance of caution and acting on the advice of the attorney general and her legal staff, Gov. Fallin delayed Glossip's execution so any legal ambiguities could be addressed.
The state of Oklahoma has an execution protocol which has been heavily litigated and approved by federal courts.
Q. Did the state try to acquire potassium chloride after realizing it had received potassium acetate?
A. Yes. It was determined the state could not receive potassium chloride in a timely manner.
Q. What is happening now?
A. The offices of the governor, the attorney general and DOC are working to address any legal ambiguities regarding DOC procedures and execution chemicals. Executions will resume once those issues have been addressed to the satisfaction of all three parties. In the meantime, the attorney general has requested an indefinite stay of the executions for Richard Glossip, Benjamin Cole and John Marion Grant.