The state of Oklahoma has requested execution dates for two inmates on death row now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lethal injection executions are not cruel and unusual punishment.
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said the two inmates, convicted of capital murder, exhausted their appeals some time ago but that the state did not proceed with their executions, pending outcome of the decision from the U.S Supreme Court.
"The ruling of the Supreme Court has basically green-lighted our proceeding on the execution of two individuals that currently are on death row, Terry Lyn Short and Kevin Young," Edmondson said. "We had delayed asking for an execution date on those two until the Supreme Court had ruled on the Kentucky case."
The executions of both men were postponed because of the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Baze v. Rees. In that case, Ralph Baze, a Kentucky inmate, said that the lethal injection procedure, a three-drug process originating in Oklahoma, created a possibility that he could experience excruciating pain during his death, contending it was violating his constitutional rights not to be tortured.
In the lethal injection process, executioners insert an IV drip into the arm of the inmate and administer sodium thiopental, a strong sedative, before injecting other chemicals that paralyze the lungs and stop the heart. The case alleged that if a problem occurs in delivering the sedative, the inmate experiences excruciating pain but is unable to alert those present because of the paralytic agent.
The case led to a virtual moratorium on executions in the United States for more than a year while the court mulled the issue.
However, the court, voting 7-2 last week, said the lethal injection process did not incur that strong a possibility of such a death.
"Unnecessary risk of pain is what the defendant asked the court to set," Edmondson said. "Oklahoma's standard, which follows existing case law, prohibits the wanton infliction of pain, a slightly different standard."
Edmondson said he expects that both Short and Young could face execution by midsummer. " Ben Fenwick