October 01, 2015

Oklahoma Death Penalty

ABA President Paulette Brown emphasized the importance last month of transparency in the administration of the death penalty in response to the state of Oklahoma’s acknowledgment that a drug that was not authorized in its execution protocol was used for the January execution of convicted murderer Charles Warner. “Although the American Bar Association does not take a position for or against capital punishment, the ABA adopted policy in February 2015 urging jurisdictions to disclose ‘to the public, to condemned prisoners facing execution and to courts all relevant information regarding execution procedures, including … details about any drugs to be used,’ ” Brown said. Three executions in Oklahoma were put on hold in early October after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said that potassium acetate was used to stop Warner’s heart during his execution instead of potassium chloride, which is one of the three drugs that are part of a state-approved protocol that also includes a sedative and a paralytic. The mistake was discovered as officials were preparing for a Sept. 30 execution and realized that they had received a shipment of potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride for the procedure. The state’s attorney general is investigating the error. “Transparency is needed if society is to have confidence in the fairness of the process,” Brown concluded.