Oklahoma executions back on, as court rules to keep lethal-drug sources secret

Clayton Lockett, left, and Charles Warner are scheduled to be executed next week in McAlester, Oklahoma.

Story highlights

  • Inmates had challenged state clause keeping source of lethal injection drugs secret
  • Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner are now scheduled to be executed Tuesday
  • Defense attorney says there's no way to know if executions will be "humane"
  • States scrambled for new drugs after European manufacturers announced ban last year

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner's executions are back on the schedule for next week after Oklahoma's high court lifted their stays, saying they had no right to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.

The inmates, who are being held at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, where they are slated to be executed by lethal injection Tuesday, had challenged the state's so-called secrecy provision, which forbids disclosing the identities of anyone involved in the execution process or suppliers of any drugs or medical equipment.

Lockett and Warner also challenged the state Department of Corrections' failure to divulge which drugs would be used, but the department disclosed what drugs it intended to use before the high court's decision: midazolam, which causes unconsciousness, along with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which shut down breathing and the heart.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court said the only remaining issue, then, is whether the state's failure to disclose its source for the drugs prevents the prisoners from challenging their executions using the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court decided it did not.

"This court holds that the secrecy provision ... does not violate the inmates' constitutional right of access to the courts," the Wednesday ruling said.

Attorney Seth Day, who represents both men, called the ruling unacceptable and told CNN affiliate KFOR that there was no way to know if the prisoners' executions "would be carried out in a constitutional and humane manner."

Lethal Injection: The process
Lethal Injection: The process

    JUST WATCHED

    Lethal Injection: The process

MUST WATCH

Lethal Injection: The process 01:27
Final death warrant
Final death warrant

    JUST WATCHED

    Final death warrant

MUST WATCH

Final death warrant 01:05
Mother slaps, then forgives son's murderer
Mother slaps, then forgives son's murderer

    JUST WATCHED

    Mother slaps, then forgives son's murderer

MUST WATCH

Mother slaps, then forgives son's murderer 02:40
'Are they gonna kill me?'
'Are they gonna kill me?'

    JUST WATCHED

    'Are they gonna kill me?'

MUST WATCH

'Are they gonna kill me?' 00:39
Mexican president talks with CNN
Mexican president talks with CNN

    JUST WATCHED

    Mexican president talks with CNN

MUST WATCH

Mexican president talks with CNN 03:16

"It's not even known whether the lethal injection drugs to be used were obtained legally, and nothing is known about their source, purity, or efficacy, among other questions," he told the station. "Oklahoma's extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection undermines our courts and democracy."

Attorney General Scott Pruitt applauded the decision, saying the state had a longstanding precedent of keeping the drug sources secret to avoid "schemes and intimidation used by defense counsel and other anti-death-penalty groups."

"These death row inmates have not contested their guilt for murdering two innocent victims nor have they contested their sentences of death. The legal wrangling of the attorneys for Lockett and Warner has served only to delay their punishment for the heinous crimes they committed," he told KFOR.

Lockett was convicted in 2000 of a bevy of crimes, including first-degree murder, first-degree rape, kidnapping and robbery in a 1999 home invasion and crime spree that left Stephanie Nieman dead and two people injured. In 2003, Warner was convicted for the 1997 first-degree rape and murder of his then-girlfriend's 11-month-old daughter, Adrianna Waller.

The constitutionality of lethal injection drugs and drug cocktails has made headlines since last year, when European manufacturers -- including Denmark-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital -- banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions. Thirty-two states were left to find new drug protocols.

"The states are scrambling to find the drugs," Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, said in November. "They want to carry out these executions that they have scheduled, but they don't have the drugs and they're changing and trying new procedures never used before in the history of executions."

If Lockett and Warner are executed next week, they would be the 194th and 195th inmates Oklahoma has executed since 1915.

        Death Row Stories

      • There are 61 women on death row across the country, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, making up only 2% of the 3,125 inmates on death row across the country.  Take a look at all the women sentenced to death in the United States.  Source: Death Penalty Information Center

        Lethal injection explained

        As manufacturers cut off supplies of lethal injection drugs, states look for new drug combinations for executions.
      • 371489 07: The Texas death chamber in Huntsville, TX, June 23, 2000 where Texas death row inmate Gary Graham was put to death by lethal injection on June 22, 2000. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

        Surprising death penalty facts

        An infographic illustrates America's record on executions by race, state, year and method since the death penalty was reinstated more than 30 years ago.
      • orig jag death penalty stats_00002728.jpg

        Executions by the numbers

        More than 14,000 people have been executed under U.S. law. About 3,000 more are slated for execution on death rows across the nation.
      • new dnt botched execution brown_00000904.jpg

        Lethal injection questions

        Clayton Lockett's botched lethal injection and deadly heart attack raises disturbing questions about how the U.S. executes death row prisoners.
      • orig death row stories ep 5 clip 3_00004910.jpg

        Life after death row

        After John Thompson survived 14 years on death row he had to figure out how to return to the world.
      • orig death row stories ep 5 clip 2_00001417.jpg

        Final death warrant

        Death row inmate John Thompson describes his reaction after Louisiana set his official execution date.
      • orig death row stories ep 5 clip 1_00002307.jpg

        'What you're up against'

        A first-time meeting between death row inmate John Thompson and his appellate lawyers yields mutual skepticism.
      • orig death row stories ep 5 clip 3_00005522.jpg

        'I'm like, "Hell no!"'

        Death row inmate John Thompson confronts a proposed shift in legal strategy aimed at saving his life.
      • He coaxes murderers to confess

        Longtime Miami-area homicide detective Marshall Frank has met some really bad people. He reveals three steps to coax killers to confess their crimes.
      • The police notebook

        Why wasn't a key piece of evidence shown to jurors? Can a simple notebook prove a man's innocence?
      • orig death row stories ep 4 clip 1 picture was innocent_00004427.jpg

        'The picture was innocent'

        A retired homicide detective examines the strange case of an ex-cop sentenced to death row for the murder of an 11-year-old girl.
      • 'I didn't do this'

        Joe D'Ambrosio, like many inmates, claimed he was innocent. As he learned, claiming it is one thing. Proving it is another.
      • orig death row stories ep3 p2_00003605.jpg

        'It was a circus'

        Although his conviction was overturned, prosecutors tried to keep an ex-death row inmate locked up before his new trial.
      • 'I always get caught'

        When police questioned an unwitting Gloria Killian after a brutal murder, she used a poor choice of words.
      • 'Nobody cared'

        Well into her 32-years-to-life murder sentence, Gloria Killian met a friend on the outside who was willing to listen.
      • Breakthrough: The letter

        Prison lifer Gloria Killian's defense team finds a previously unknown letter that may help win her freedom.
      • Edward Lee Elmore, 53, smiles after his hearing on Friday, March 2, 2012 in Greenwood, S.C. Elmore, who spent 30 years in prison for murdering Dorothy Edwards, a crime that Elmore said he did not commit, was set free by Judge Frank Addy on Friday. (AP Photo/The Index-Journal, Matt Walsh)

        The fight of their lives

        Legal intern Diana Holt refused to believe that death row inmate Edward Lee Elmore was a killer. So began the fight of their lives.
      • orig death row stories 3_00003213.jpg

        'Are they gonna kill me?'

        Three weeks before his execution date, Edward Lee Elmore asked his attorney a heartbreaking question. Watch her tearful response.
      • orig death row stories 1 _00004604.jpg

        Suspicious student triggers probe

        A law student was sent to meet a death row inmate accused of a horrible murder. Their meeting triggered the beginning of an amazing story.
      • Somalia convicted murderer Adan Sheikh Abdi is tied to a post before being executed on August 17, 2013 by a firing squad in a Mogadishu square for the September 2012 killing of well-known journalist Hassan Yusuf Absuge. Adan Sheikh Abdi was tried by a military tribunal as a 'combatant' for belonging to Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgency. He was sentenced to death in March and his subsequent appeal was rejected. AFP PHOTO / Mohamed Abdiwahab (Photo credit should read Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

        Report: Executions rise in 2013

        Virtual "killing sprees" in Iran and Iraq led to a spike in the number of executions globally last year, according to Amnesty International.
      • Death row diary

        Death row inmates deal with demons in different ways. William Van Poyck chose to write.