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Oklahoma takes next step on executions (FURTHER UPDATED)

FURTHER UPDATED Monday 5:23 p.m.   The three inmates’ lawyers have now filed a response, urging the Court to delay the execution until after it decides the case on the merits; they do not support cutting off a stay if Oklahoma adopts a new protocol.


UPDATED Monday 2:46 p.m.  The application to delay the executions (docket 14A796) is here.  The state said it is continuing to search for a supply of drugs previously approved for lethal injections and, if it locates them, would then ask the Court for permission to go ahead with the executions.  Otherwise, it sought a delay until after the Supreme Court rules on the pending case, which will be heard in late April.


The state of Oklahoma will ask the Supreme Court on Monday to delay three executions by lethal drugs while the Justices weigh a new test case, but it will also seek the option of resuming executions if the officials put together a new drug protocol, lawyers for the state said.  The application for postponement is expected to be filed at the Court shortly.

Last Friday, the Court agreed to hear a challenge by three death-row inmates challenging Oklahoma’s current three-drug lethal injection protocol.  The case (Glossip v. Gross) is likely to be heard in late April.  The Court had earlier refused to delay the execution of those inmates, and it did not postpone their execution dates when it granted review on Friday.

Lawyers for the inmates had been expected to seek a delay, to keep the three inmates alive while the Justices hear and decide their case.  State officials, however, moved ahead first in the Court on Monday, apparently seeking to limit the scope of any postponement.  Their application, the state attorney general’s office said, will be seeking a postponement only as to the three inmates now involved in the case.  (A fourth inmate was involved earlier, but his execution went ahead last week after the Justices split five to four in refusing any stays in the case.)

The application also will propose that the Court allow the state to resume executions, in the event of one of two developments: first, if the Court in the pending case upholds the existing protocol; or, second, if state prison officials have “obtained a viable alternative of drugs for use in the executions.”

Currently, one of the three inmates is scheduled to die on Thursday; the other two currently have execution dates in February and March.  Once the Supreme Court granted review of their case, a delay of their execution dates seemed likely.  The issue that will now confront the Court is how broad to make any order delaying executions in Oklahoma, and, indeed, whether any order will be confined to Oklahoma alone.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Oklahoma takes next step on executions (FURTHER UPDATED), SCOTUSblog (Jan. 26, 2015, 12:29 PM),