Autopsy Report Reveals Oklahoma Executed Inmate Using Wrong Drug

Print Share on LinkedIn More
Lethal Injection

AVN Photo Lab / Shutterstock.com

October 8, 2015; NPR, “The Two-Way”

Charles Warner was executed by Oklahoma back in January earlier this year. He had been convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old child, and was originally scheduled for execution back in 2014, the same night as Clayton D. Lockett, whose botched execution was one of the several cases that led to questioning the changing form of the three-part lethal injection drug cocktail.

Now, months later, The Oklahoman has found a discrepancy between the execution logs and the autopsy report that was conducted after Warner’s execution. According to the autopsy report, the syringes used to administer the drug were labeled “120 mEq Potassium Chloride” while the drug vials were labeled “20mL single dose Potassium Acetate Injection, USP 40 mEq\2mEq\mL.” While the execution logs had recorded that Warner received potassium chloride, a drug to stop the heart, the report apparently reveals he was given the drug potassium acetate instead.

In September, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin delayed Richard Glossip’s execution because the state had received potassium acetate, instead of the normally used potassium chloride. However, yesterday, Fallin expressed that the doctor and pharmacist working with the Department of Corrections said the “two drugs are medically interchangeable.”

According to the Associated Press, Oklahoma does have some leeway in the drugs it uses as part of its lethal cocktail should one of the standard three elements be unavailable. However, the inmate must be informed beforehand of the drug cocktail to be administered, before he or she is executed. In the letter from Assistant Attorney General John D. Hadden to Warner’s attorney in November 2014 prior to the execution, Hadden wrote that Warner would be administered a cocktail of midazolam, rocuronium bromide, and potassium chloride.

Glossip and his attorneys, whose execution was rescheduled to the beginning of November, are using the major discrepancy as a point of further concern over Oklahoma’s ability to carry out executions legally.

“The State’s disclosure that it used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride during the execution of Charles Warner yet again raises serious questions about the ability of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to carry out executions,” said Dale Baich, Glossip’s attorney. “The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the State says potassium acetate was used. We will explore this in detail through the discovery process in the federal litigation.”

Fallin said the attorney general’s office is conducting an investigation into Warner’s execution and that she will cooperate fully, including delaying any future executions.—Shafaq Hasan