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Oklahoma Officials Say They've Secured Drugs to Resume Executions

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced Thursday the state has secured a supply of the drugs in its execution protocol.

Hunter could not say where the drugs — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — came from under state law that keeps the source of execution drugs confidential.

Lethal injection remains Oklahoma’s primary method of capital punishment, but the drugs specified in the state’s execution protocol have become increasingly difficult to find — former Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said in 2018 he was "calling all around the world" trying to find them — and all executions in the state were put on hold in 2015 when the state got the wrong drug hours before a man was to be put to death.

"I can’t imagine the grief and loss of the families and friends that are still mourning the murder of their loved ones," said Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Oklahoma’s last execution was now more than five years ago, in January 2015. It came nine months after a lethal injection where the executioners had difficulty placing an IV and the inmate, Clayton Lockett, seemed to regain consciousness and took 43 minutes to die.

DOC Director Scott Crow said the execution protocol now calls for more training and fail-safes, but he would not comment on whether the agency will follow a grand jury's recommendation not to schedule more than one execution in a day.

"I really don’t want to comment on that. I can tell you that we are looking at the overall — because of the number that we have, we’re looking at the overall complexity of that situation, and we’re developing a schedule for Gov. Stitt and Attorney General Hunter to establish a more definitive game plan moving forward," Crow said.

While the state has been developing a method for execution by nitrogen hypoxia, state law specifies the method is only to be used if officials cannot obtain an adequate supply of the three drugs for lethal injection.

"DOC’s continuing with efforts in conjunction with our office to finalize the architecture that’s necessary to carry out the nitrogen hypoxia protocol, but we’re not there yet," Hunter said.

Barring legal action, Oklahoma can request execution dates starting in mid-July from the Court of Criminal Appeals for the 26 death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals.

The state has 47 inmates on death row.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.