(Reuters) – Oklahoma must postpone the executions of John Grant and Julius Jones while the legal challenge to the state’s lethal injection protocol is resolved, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled on Wednesday.
Grant’s execution, which was scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, will now only take place if the United States Supreme Court overturns the Appeals Committee’s ruling. The state has not yet said whether it will appeal the ruling to the country’s highest court.
Ordering the state to delay the executions of Grant and Jones, who were due to be executed on November 28, the judges said a lower court unfairly rejected the two men’s delays granted to several other defendants filing a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s protocol for lethal three-drug injections. This method could result in a prolonged painful death in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution to protect against cruel and unusual punishment.
“They risk not being able to bring what might be a viable claim under the Eighth Amendment to the federal courts before being executed in the manner they appealed,” the judges wrote.
Counsel for the convicts, Del Peche, welcomed the verdict.
“The Tenth Circuit did the right thing by blocking Mr. Grant’s execution on Thursday,” Beech said in a statement. “Today’s order should prevent the state from carrying out executions until the federal district court addresses the ‘credible expert criticism’ it identified in Oklahoma’s execution proceedings. These cases will be carefully reviewed by the court at the trial scheduled for February.”
A spokeswoman for Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said the state was still reviewing the case and would be suspended at another time.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 36 US states and the District of Columbia have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in the past 10 years.
Oklahoma has not carried out executions in six years, since three failed attempts ended in the death of Charles Frederick Warner in 2015. Warner, who was convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old infant, was executed using the wrong anesthetic, officials later said.
The year before, Clayton Lockett, convicted of murder, rape and kidnapping, regained consciousness and raised his head after the execution proceedings began, only to die in apparent agony less than an hour later, according to court records.
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