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Jan 29, 3:57 PM EST

Oklahoma official: Executions could resume with other drugs


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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of a sedative Oklahoma uses in lethal injections, Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Thursday he will push to resume executions if alternative drugs can be found.

Pruitt said if prison officials can obtain doses of barbiturates that the state has used to execute inmates in the past, such as sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, he will ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set new execution dates.

"If those drugs become available, we didn't want any impediment to the ability to carry out executions," Pruitt said, "and the court acknowledged that and allowed us to do so."

Oklahoma prison officials are looking for such drugs, but so far have been unable to find them, said Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie. The drugs have become difficult to find after manufacturers prohibited selling them to states for executions.

Richard Glossip was scheduled to die Thursday for killing an Oklahoma City motel owner in 1997, but his execution and two others were delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is considering whether the sedative midazolam appropriately renders an inmate unconscious before additional drugs are administered to shut down breathing and stop the heart.

Midazolam has been used in problematic executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma, but Florida has used the drug in 11 executions without apparent incident. Oklahoma used the drug for the first time in April to execute Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney and mumbled before prison officials tried unsuccessfully to halt his botched execution, which state investigators blamed on a faulty intravenous line. Oklahoma increased its dose of midazolam by five times for the Jan. 15 execution of Charles Warner, who died complaining of pain but showing no obvious signs of distress.

Both Pruitt and state prison officials have acknowledged pentobarbital is a more ideal drug for executions, and Pruitt has suggested policymakers in Oklahoma consider allowing the state to set up a compounding laboratory that could produce the drugs itself.

Oklahoma legislators have introduced several death penalty bills for the legislative session that begins Monday. One would make Oklahoma the first state in the nation to use nitrogen gas for executions. Another would ensure a firing squad, rather than electrocution, be used if lethal injection becomes unconstitutional.

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