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Oklahoma Planning Executions for 25 Men, Including Plausibly Innocent Richard Glossip

by Jo Ellen Nott

In the first week of June 2022, a federal judge decided that a three-drug cocktail including the sedative midazolam is a constitutional method of execution. Pursuant to that decision, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor is asking the state to schedule executions of 25 prisoners on death row. Oklahoma has 43 men on death row.

Death row prisoners had fought the lethal injection method of execution, arguing that midazolam is insufficient to dull the pain as potassium chloride stops the heart. They claimed executing prisoners with these drugs amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

O’Connor is requesting the first execution no earlier than August 25 and then a four-week interval between each execution. “For the sake of the victims’ families, many of whom have waited for decades — as many executions as possible are set four weeks apart,”O’Connor wrote to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.  The four-week intervals are necessary to allow for a clemency hearing in each case.  Using that time frame the executions would take place over the next two years. 

The first execution would be that of James Coddington, who would have been executed in March 2022 if he had not joined the lawsuit arguing the lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment. Defense attorneys have previously said Coddington has a mental illness. He was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to die for the 1997 killing of his co-worker Albert Hale. When Hale refused to lend Coddington $50 dollars to buy drugs, Coddington beat the 73-year-old man in the head with a hammer until he died. 

The second execution on the list is that of Richard Glossip, Oklahoma’s highest-profile death row inmate because he is by all accounts innocent. The circumstances of his case have led to celebrities, activists, and bipartisan calling for mercy. Glossip was originally convicted in the 1997 murder of his employer Barry Van Treese.  

The evidence of his innocence is so compelling that 28 Republicans and six Democratic lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to Governor Kevin Stitt (R) to ask for a review. Glossip’s attorney Don Knight wrote in a press statement that “Until everyone can examine the final report, the attorney general has a moral duty to delay the execution of Richard Glossip. No matter where people stand on the death penalty, no one should want to kill an innocent man.” 

Sources:  apnews.com, oklahoma.gov, reason.com

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