MCALESTER — A lawyer representing death row inmate Michael Hooper is questioning whether 20 newly acquired doses of a drug used in Oklahoma executions are intended for human use, court records show.
The attorney representing Hooper, who is scheduled to die Aug. 14, is asking a federal judge to delay the inmate's execution until the state Corrections Department provides more information about the 20 doses of pentobarbital it bought in July.
The drug had become extremely scarce in recent months and there were no known suppliers of the powerful sedative for human use, Hooper's attorney, Jim Drummond, wrote in a court filing Tuesday.
“Plaintiff has strong reasons to suspect that the 20 pentobarbital doses acquired by Oklahoma as announced on July 11, 2012, are veterinary drugs, and not pentobarbital that has been manufactured or approved for use in humans,” Drummond wrote. “Nembutal, the trade name for the pentobarbital that is FDA-approved for use in humans, is not available for executions because the manufacturer will not supply it and has a contractual guarantee that its distributors will not sell it to be used for executions.”
Drummond stated in the filing that pentobarbital, the first of three drugs used in Oklahoma executions, is often used by veterinarians to euthanize animals and that it's “not scarce and is easily obtained.”
Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Corrections Department, would not say where the agency acquired the 20 doses.
Oklahoma law allows officials to keep secret any and all parties involved in a state-sanctioned execution, from the company who supplies the drugs to the medical staff who take part.
Randall Workman, warden of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, addressed the issue briefly in a sworn affidavit filed by attorneys representing the Corrections Department.
Workman has been the warden for 11 executions dating to 2008, records show.
“I affirm the drugs to be utilized in the scheduled execution of Michael Hooper were obtained by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections through lawful and proper means,” he states in the affidavit. “I know of no facts which would cause me to question the source, method of obtaining or quality of the drugs to be utilized in Michael Hooper's execution.”
Workman also states that the drugs will be kept in conditions meeting the manufacturer's specifications and that all personnel taking part in the execution will be properly trained.
He said all of the recently acquired pentobarbital has yet to expire.
The inmate's attorney also is asking the judge to force the state Corrections Department to adopt a single-drug execution method, which has been done in several other states, including neighboring Texas and Missouri.
“The one-drug protocol is more humane, and the state has no rational reason to continue with the second and third drugs while urging that the first drug will certainly kill Mr. Hooper,” Drummond wrote. “At a two-dimensional level, it's a waste of vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, both of which are banned for animal euthanasia.
“It is difficult to comprehend Oklahoma's reasons for continuing with their often discredited and challenged use, especially since the revised statute now authorizes only one drug,” the attorney wrote.
According to court documents, the federal judge presiding over the case did not made a ruling on Wednesday.
Drummond, reached by phone shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, said he was not aware of any ruling by the judge.
“I'm sure they'll get right on it,” he said.
Hooper was convicted of killing a mother and her two children in 1993 and sentenced to die by a Canadian County jury.
If Hooper is executed in less than two weeks in McAlester, he'll be the 100th inmate put to death by lethal injection in Oklahoma.
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