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The Supreme Court steps in to review Oklahoma's lethal injection process

The Supreme Court steps in to review Oklahoma's lethal injection process


The case will likely be argued in April

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Following a botched lethal injection in April, Oklahoma has recently been under scrutiny for its execution process. Now, the Supreme Court has said it will review the state's injection procedure to determine if it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, Buzzfeed reports.

The fumbled execution, in which death row inmate Charles Warner remained alive for nearly an hour after the injection was administered, has prompted Warner's lawyers and three other Oklahoma prisoners to petition the Supreme Court to intervene. The petition argues for the discontinued use of the midazolam, the sedative currently in place as the first drug in Oklahoma's three-drug execution cocktail.

The sedative midazolam will be reviewed

The Supreme Court ruled in 2008's Kentucky's Baze vs. Rees that a three-drug execution was constitutional. Those three drugs were sodium thiopental (an anasthetic), pancuronium bromide (a paralytic) and potassium chloride, which ultimately stops the heart. But midazolam is a benzodiazepine that has no pain-relieving properties and, according to the petition, is ineffectual in maintaining longterm unconsciousness. Florida is the only other state to currently use midalozam as the first of a three-drug injection.

In December, Arizona's Department of Corrections changed its two-drug cocktail — midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphon — after an inmate remained alive for nearly two hours after the injection. Ohio has also retired midazolam from its two-drug process.

The question of what will replace the current drugs is difficult; for years now, the country has experienced a shortage of traditional lethal injection drugs, like the sedative Nembutal. The Supreme Court will likely argue the case in April with a decision expected in June, according to the Associated Press.