OKLAHOMA – Limited drug supply may hinder executions

April 30 source http://www.tulsaworld.com

Michael B. Selsor: His execution is set for Tuesday unless the governor intervenes.

When (and if) Michael Selsor’s death sentence is carried out Tuesday, Oklahoma will only have enough supply of its lethal injection cocktail to execute one more inmate.

The pentobarbital that Oklahoma has used for the first part of its three-step execution process is in short supply nationally, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has nearly exhausted its remaining doses with the executions of Gary Welch and Timothy Stemple earlier this year.

“We’re still exploring our options,” DOC spokesman Jerry Massie said.

Pentobarbital became the first step of Oklahoma’s three-part lethal injection formula in 2010, after sodium thiopental supplies ran short and a federal judge blocked states from using foreign-manufactured versions of the drug.

In the second and third steps of Oklahoma’s lethal injection, vecuronium bromide stops respiratory function and potassium chloride stops the heart, Massie said.

According to Board of Corrections reports, as many as seven executions are possible in Oklahoma this year, which would be double the annual average. In 2001, the state executed a record 18 inmates.

Unless the governor intervenes, Selsor is scheduled to die Tuesday at Oklahoma State Penitentiary for his role in the shooting death of a Tulsa convenience store manager during a 1975 robbery spree that left at least three other people injured. He was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life in prison after the state’s death penalty law was found unconstitutional. An appeals court granted him a new trial in 1998, and another jury found him guilty and once again sentenced him to die.

Because execution dates aren’t set until an inmate’s final appeal is denied, and the U.S. Supreme Court takes its recess in June, officials don’t anticipate having to make a decision regarding the lethal injection drugs for several months, Massie said.

Death-row inmate Garry Thomas Allen was scheduled to be executed this month, but a federal judge issued a stay so that questions regarding his mental competency might be examined.

There are other drugs on the market that work similarly to pentobarbital, but switching drugs would likely initiate a court challenge similar to what the state faced when it switched to pentobarbital from sodium thiopental, Massie said. A judge ultimately ruled to allow Oklahoma to use the drug, which is widely used in veterinary medicine.

Over the past few years, several drug manufacturers have refused to sell those drugs to states that intend to use them for executions.


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