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Oklahoma Department of Corrections says it has no records for its lethal injection drugs

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Oklahoma has no records for the drugs it’s soon planning to use to execute seven people. 

That’s what the state told Fred Hodara, a retired New York attorney who’s suing the Department of Corrections after it told him there aren’t any records around Oklahoma’s new lethal injection protocol. 

Hodara has been filing open records requests with the state since 2018 when DOC Director Joe Allbaugh held a press conference with former Attorney General Mike Hunter to announce their failure at finding appropriate lethal injection drugs. Allbaugh said he would have to make back alley deals to get the right drugs.

“He made it sound like an episode of Breaking Bad,” said Hodara.

In 2020, however, the state said it would resume lethal injections after finding a source. The identity of that source and how much the drugs cost is unknown. The state at first ignored Hodara’s requests or refused to search for the information. Then it told him there simply were no documents.

“So it wasn’t the state saying we can’t tell you, it’s secret, it’s confidential. They said there are no responsive documents. That’s when we filed our lawsuit now on the threshold of the seven individuals being scheduled to be put to death with what’s purportedly the same cocktail of drugs,” said Hodara.

The state halted executions in 2015 after several botches with its lethal injection protocol. Brette Peña, Hodara’s attorney, said lack of documentation was one of the reasons for those mistakes. 

“They had ordered those previously used drugs by telephone, without a written prescription, they paid cash, they did not have a formal invoice. Their internal request for the funds consisted of an undated, unsigned, handwritten note. The Department of Corrections did not verify it received the correct drugs. There were no chain of custody forms,” said Peña.

Secrecy around sources for lethal injection drugs goes all the way up to the White House. In 2017, President Donald Trump began building a pipeline for lethal injection drugs while maintaining secrecy around suppliers.

Just before he left office, Trump killed 13 people in quick succession. He carried out more federal executions than any president in 120 years.

Peña said whether the Oklahoma lethal injection protocol documents are secret or don’t exist, the state has a problem.

“They’re withholding documents that they do have or they’re continuing to fail to maintain the documents. Either way they’re setting themselves up to repeat the same mistakes,” said Peña.

The first person scheduled for execution is John Marion Grant on Oct. 28.