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Oklahomans, Families of Murder Victims Move One Step Closer to Justice

OKLAHOMA CITY - Attorney General John O’Connor confirmed the receipt of a decision today from a federal district court concluding that Oklahoma’s protocol for the execution of convicted murderers is constitutional. In a case that has spanned nearly a decade, with multiple trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Honorable Stephen P. Friot issued a final judgment in the State’s favor this morning, alongside findings of fact and conclusions of law fully supporting the State’s positions.

“The people of Oklahoma and the families who have suffered the murder of a loved one moved one step closer to justice with today’s ruling,” said Attorney General O’Connor.

Oklahoma’s current execution protocol involves administering midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride to convicted murderers on death row. The Court held that the drugs render the inmate unconscious and unable to feel pain.

“The State has proven that the drugs and method of execution satisfy the United States and Oklahoma constitutions,” Attorney General O’Connor emphasized. “The Court’s ruling is definitive: The plaintiffs in this case ‘have fallen well short’ of making their case, and midazolam, as the State has repeatedly shown, ‘can be relied upon… to render the inmate insensate to pain.’”

Judge Friot’s ruling comes after he held a week-long trial earlier this year, where the testimony of numerous expert and fact witnesses was presented. In his ruling, Judge Friot singled out the testimony of the State’s expert witnesses Joseph Antognini, M.D. and Ervin Yen, M.D. as being the “best-supported and most persuasive” in the case because their respective testimony was “rooted in their extensive professional experience administering midazolam, their observations of its effects on their own patients, and, not least, their credible observations” at the four recent Oklahoma executions.

Relying on that testimony, Judge Friot found, among other things, that “500 milligrams of midazolam will easily accomplish general anesthesia,” and that the “recipient of that dose will feel no pain.”

“The evidence persuades the court, and not by a small margin, that even though midazolam is not the drug of choice for maintaining prolonged deep anesthesia, it can be relied upon, as used in the Oklahoma execution protocol, to render the inmate insensate to pain for the few minutes required to complete the execution.” In other words, the Court held that the evidence established “that midazolam does reliably place inmates under general anesthesia”

The Court also issued definitive findings on the execution of John Grant, which has been repeatedly mischaracterized in numerous media sources. The Court found that it was “unsurprising” that Grant regurgitated during the execution, given that he had a full stomach at the time, and the Court rejected unfounded “speculation” that Grant was conscious during the execution. Rather, the Court found that it was “highly probable” that Grant felt “no physical pain.” Moreover, the Court found that Grant’s movements during the execution were a “natural result of the administration of 500 milligrams of midazolam.”

This week, the Attorney General plans to seek execution dates for those on death row from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.