Former attorney general Robert Henry joins criticism of Oklahoma execution methods


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OKLAHOMA CITY — A former Oklahoma attorney general who is now president of Oklahoma City University has added his name to a legal submission that criticizes Oklahoma's execution methods.

In papers filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, OCU President Robert Henry says state lawyers picked an inappropriate drug for lethal injection because they were on a tight deadline and under political pressure, The Oklahoman reported from its Washington bureau Sunday ( ).

"Oklahoma's hasty, non-science-driven process for selecting midazolam as the first drug in its three-drug protocol did not cohere with its solemn duty to ensure its punishments are lawful," the submission signed by Henry says.

Henry, a former federal appeals court judge, joined the submission as former attorney general of Oklahoma from 1987 to 1991. Former Vice President Walter Mondale also signed it, along with along with former attorneys general from Virginia, California and other states.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments April 29 in the Oklahoma case, which is narrowly focused on the first drug used by the state in its three-drug sequence.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is defending the state in the case, plans to submit his written arguments to the court this week.

Henry joined a half-dozen friend-of-the-court submissions backing the Oklahoma death row inmates' position that the sedative chosen by the state doesn't meet the court's test for lethal injection drugs.

The case was filed by 21 Oklahoma death row inmates following the execution of Clayton Lockett, who remained conscious after midazolam was administered. His execution prompted an investigation of Oklahoma's protocols.

In their argument, Henry and the other former attorneys general say the decision to use midazolam was made by a group of government lawyers from the state Corrections Department and the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office "while under significant time and political pressure."

Pruitt has challenged that assertion previously. Pruitt's office told the court in January that Oklahoma "chose midazolam because it had been shown to work, and work effectively."

Oklahoma is one of only two states along with Florida that used midazolam as the first drug in a three-drug protocol, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. Ohio and Arizona have used it in a two-drug protocol. Missouri administered midazolam as a sedative before the official execution protocol began.

Information from: The Oklahoman,

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