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Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor. Photo: AP

Oklahoma attorney general seeks execution dates for 25 death row inmates

  • Attorney General John O’Connor said the court’s stays of execution are no longer in place and that there are no longer legal impediments to executing the inmates
  • The state Department of Corrections (DOC) has asked that the first execution be set no earlier than August 25, said O’Connor

Oklahoma’s attorney general has asked the state’s highest appeal court to set execution dates for 25 death row inmates following a federal judge’s rejection of their challenge to the state’s lethal injection method.

In 25 similar filings with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday, Attorney General John O’Connor wrote that the federal court’s stays of execution are no longer in place and that therefore there are no longer any legal impediments to executing the inmates, who have exhausted their appeals.

The state Department of Corrections (DOC) has asked that the first execution be set no earlier than August 25, O’Connor wrote. He asked that the dates be set at four-week intervals due to the time required for a clemency hearing for each inmate before an execution, and that the DOC requested executions be set at least 35 days after the court’s order.

The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Photo: AP

“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.

O’Connor suggested that the first inmate who should be put to death is James Coddington, whose March 10 execution was postponed after US District Judge Stephen Friot allowed him to join the lawsuit that ultimately failed.

A phone call to the office of a lawyer for Coddington rang unanswered on Saturday. Defence lawyers have previously said Coddington has a mental illness.

Coddington was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1997 hammer killing in Choctaw of colleague Albert Hale, who prosecutors said had refused to lend Coddington US$50 to buy drugs.

Second on the list, which the filing said was proposed based on when each inmate’s appeals were exhausted, would be Richard Glossip, the lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit. He was hours from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realised they had received the wrong lethal drug.

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It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used previously to execute an inmate, and executions in the state were put on hold.

Glossip, who was twice convicted and sentenced to death for killing Barry Van Treese, the owner of the motel where Glossip worked, has maintained his innocence.

Don Knight, Glossip’s lawyer, noted that a group of Republican politicians who question Glossip’s guilt have requested a review of the case.

“Those findings could reveal exculpatory information previously unknown until this point,” Knight said in a statement. “Until everyone has the opportunity to examine the final report, the attorney general has a moral duty to delay the execution of Richard Glossip.”

John Grant was executed in Oklahoma October. Photo: Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP

Executions in Oklahoma resumed in October with John Grant, who convulsed on the gurney and vomited before being declared dead. Since then, three more executions were carried out without noticeable complications, most recently inmate Gilbert Ray Postelle, who was put to death on February 17.

Federal public defender Jennifer Moreno, one of the lawyers who represented the inmates in the failed federal lawsuit, has said an appeal of Friot’s ruling was being considered.

Moreno did not immediately reply to messages on Saturday seeking comment.