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After Oklahoma Prisons Ask For More Time To Carry Out Executions, Judge Says ‘Suck It Up’

An appeals court judge in Oklahoma reportedly told state execution schedulers to “suck it up” and “man up” after they requested a 90-day period between executions in an effort to combat trauma, accommodate staff shortages and reduce the potential for errors. The state plans to execute 25 prisoners whose appeals are exhausted in less than three years, about 58% of the inmates on death row in Oklahoma. At a hearing last Tuesday, Judge Gary Lumpkin responded to a request to slow Oklahoma’s execution schedule, the Guardian reports. The state had requested the gap between executions to be increased from 60 to 90 days to reduce strain on department of corrections staff. In a letter to the court filed in January, Steve Harpe, executive director of the department, said the existing schedule was “too onerous and not sustainable”. In the motion, co-signed by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, Harpe said the department had carried out 11 executions since 2021, “exhibiting superior work ethic, professionalism, and concern for the victim’s families throughout”.

Under an order that year, Oklahoma ordered that the execution of death row inmates be divided into phases. Phase one and two scheduled executions four weeks apart, but that was increased to six weeks after a January 2023 request by Oklahoma’s attorney general, Gentner Drummond, to slow the pace. That came after a series of what were described as “botched” executions, including one man who writhed and moaned during his execution for 43 minutes before dying of a heart attack; a man who said his “body was on fire” after being injected with drugs; and a third who convulsed and vomited after executioners used midazolam, a Valium-type sedative, as the first of a three-drug cocktail. In the letter, Drummond cited concerns of another botched execution if the state didn’t slow down.


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