The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday set the execution dates for 25 prisoners in response to a request by Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor.
After a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled in that the state’s three-drug lethal-injection protocol was constitutional, John made his request, saying that the prisoners had exhausted their criminal appeals. John argued for imminent execution dates as a matter of justice for the family members of those who were killed. In a statement, he noted that the earliest kill by a prisoner on Oklahoma’s death row was committed in 1993.
The decided first execution was scheduled for August 25th, with subsequent executions scheduled for about once every four weeks through 2024. In Oklahoma, prisoners are automatically granted a clemency hearing within 21 days of their scheduled execution, at which point the state’s pardon and parole board can recommend the governor grant a prisoner a reprieve from death row.
The sedative midazolam, which is the first drug Oklahoma administers in its lethal-injection protocol has prompted legal challenges by prisoners arguing that it fails to reliably render them unconscious, raising the likelihood of an execution that would be considered “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The state suspended executions in 2015 after the botched lethal injections of Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett in which a still-conscious Warner cried out, “my body is on fire.” Lockett writhed for 43 minutes before dying of a heart attack.
Lawyers to some of the prisoners scheduled for execution say that their prisoners have strong innocence claims and histories of intellectual disability that should disqualify them for the death penalty or whose cases have claims of racial bias.