Oklahoma has presented numerous prevalent and well-documented problems with the death penalty. For example, in January 2015, during the execution of Charles Warner, corrections workers used unapproved and incorrect drugs. After this disastrous blunder that no Oklahoma attorney would find acceptable, Attorney General Scott Pruitt demanded a comprehensive investigation into the problems. Later on in 2015, the governor stayed the execution of Richard Glossip at the last minute, after realizing the same mistaken drugs were about to be administered to him, as well.

Investigation Findings

The investigation revealed incredibly embarrassing and unsettling findings. Among other pervasive issues, the most disturbing was likely the revelation that the Department of Corrections had been administering potassium acetate, rather than potassium chloride for executions. Additionally, the investigation discovered that the Department of Corrections Director had modified the execution protocol orally without authority, pharmacists ordered the wrong execution drugs, an agent of the Inspector General failed to inspect lethal drugs, general counsel failed to inventory execution drugs, a warden failed to notify the Department that potassium acetate was received, and numerous communication errors were made. While no indictments have been made so far regarding the investigation, it is still considered open and ongoing.

Given the Failures, How Can Protocols Be Enforced?

However, conversations regarding the lawfulness and validity of the death penalty have been renewed. Considering the obvious and duplicated failures that have occurred within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, it is time to seriously assess the death penalty, whether it should be enforced, and what the state can do to ensure these problems do not keep happening.

Death Penalty Must be Done Right

Although former prosecutor Lou Keel stands by the death penalty, he says that he would “respect that report and try to learn from it. These are things the Department of Corrections must get right.” Keel was the prosecutor on the Charles Warner case. He continues to say, “Certainly, this is a process, as a society, that we have to get tight. When you impose the ultimate sanction on people, it’s important this be done in the most humane way possible.”
A multi-county grand jury produced a brutal 106-page report calling for sweeping modifications to Oklahoma’s protocol for executing inmates, and does not seem to be finished with the investigation. They did recommend nitrogen gas as a new method for executions.
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