The U.S. Supreme Court, voting 5-4, has upheld the use of a drug in Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol that has been criticized as likely to cause inmates cruel and unusual punishment, The Huffington Post's Kim Bellware reports. Lawyers for the inmates on Oklahoma's death row aruged that midazolam "can't reliably render an inmate unconscious and free of pain while the second and third drugs paralyze him and stop his heart, thus making the execution cruel and unusual punishment."
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether a drug used in Oklahoma's lethal-injection executions violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, Christian Science Monitor's Warren Richey reports. At issue is whether midazolam, the first drug used in a three-drug cocktail, is "reliably effective in preventing condemned prisoners from suffering an intolerable level of pain during the execution process." The drug is supposed to make prisoners unconscious, but there have been three botched executions in which prisoners awoke and struggled during the administration of the later drugs.
A bill has been introduced in the California Senate to make it illegal for drones to be flown over private property unless drone operators have the permission of owners, the San Francisco Business Times' Patrick Hoge reports.
In another drone-legislative development, a bill has been proposed in Oklahoma to shield anyone from liability if they destroy a drone that flies below 300 feet over their property and encroaches on their privacy, The Oklahoman's Rick Green reports.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1oth Circuit rejected the requests for stays in four executions in Oklahoma, the Washington Post's Mark Berman reports. The executions are the first since Clayton Lockett's lethal injection was botched: "Lockett grimaced, clenched his jaw and writhed on the gurney before dying inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on April 29. A state investigation released later found that the execution team failed to properly insert the needle to deliver the lethal injection drugs, a problem that was exacerbated when no one monitored the IV and compounded when no one involved knew what to do as the situation unfolded."
Oklahoma has a new protocol that the four death-penalty inmates are objecting to; they argue that the planned use of sedative midazolam would make them suffer a burning, intense pain as they are executed.
After a federal judge upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma's new lethal injection protocol, a group of inmates slated to be executed next year are planning to appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press. U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot ruled that the 500-milligram dose of the sedative midazolam makes it a "'virtual certainty'" that inmates will be unconscious before drugs are administered to stop their hearts and their respiratory systems.
But the inmates argue the drug poses a substantial risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering. When the state used a 100-milligram dose of midazolam, inmate Clayton Lockett "writhed on the gurney, mumbled and lifted his head during his 43-minute execution," the AP further reports.
Clayton Lockett took 43 minutes to die when he was executed by the state of Oklahoma earlier this year. But investigators "downplayed and omitted disturbing details" about the botched execution, including that lawyers from the Attorney General's Office helped select the drug combination used for Lockett's execution, the Tulsa World reports.
Attorneys for death-row inmates said in a motion that a witness said "the scene 'was like a horror movie' as Lockett was bucking and attempting to raise himself off the gurney when he was supposed to be unconscious and dying," the newspaper further reports. A paramedic who struggled to start numerous IVs on the night of the execution told investigators that the process was a "'a cluster.'" The lawyers are challenging the state's execution procedures as cruel and unusual punishment.
The Tulsa World's Ziva Branstetter reports that few Oklahomans receive compensation after their convictions are overturned because of evidence they are innocent: "Like most other states, Oklahoma’s wrongful conviction law requires a legal finding of 'actual innocence' after convictions are overturned. In practice, the process often requires exonerated people to prove their innocence again in court." Branstetter found in her review that just six out of 28 Oklahomans listed on the National Exoneration Registry collected any money for their years spent in prison.
The Tulsa World has conducted a two-part investigation into the case built against Michelle Murphy, who was released from jail after her murder conviction was dismissed Friday. The World found that the blood and DNA found at the scene of her baby's death was not Murphy's.
She also allegedly made an incriminating statement that "'I could've been so angry I needed to take it out on somebody and ended up hurting my son.'" Murphy said during her trial that she only made the statement because a police officer told her she could see her other child if she confessed.
According to the World, The key prosecution witness, a 14-year-old who had made sexual advances against Murphy--then a young teenage mom- reacted aggressively when facing rejection. The witness killed himself accidently by autoerotic asphyxiation. His statement incriminating Murphy was admitted, but evidence about his violent behavior was not admitted.
The Tenth Circuit has once again acted to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage. The same panel of judges, 2-1, that voted to strike down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage voted to strike down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, USA Today's Richard Wolf reports. The dissenting judge, Judge Paul Kelly, is the first federal judge to oppose same-sex marriage in any case, USA Today reports.
msnbc has a report asking how American courts can avoid another capital punishment calamity after Clayton Lockett's botched execution with a three-drug cocktail. He was seen writhing in pain by witnesses and he died 43 minutes after the execution began. Three separate courts have stepped in to stop executions since Lockett's death, according to msnbc.
msnbc also notes that states have turned to compound pharmacies to get the execution drugs and at least 13 states have moved to shield from the public how they are obtaining the drugs.