Search For Seller, Manufacturer Holding Up OK Executions


Tuesday, January 29th 2019, 9:44 am
By: Grant Hermes


For the first time this week, state officials are giving insight into why Oklahoma’s executions have been on hold for so long; finding a company to help build or sell necessary equipment. 

After the halting of executions in 2015, Oklahoma became the first state to choose nitrogen gas as its main method of execution. By the DOC's own admission, the method is untried and untested in the courts.

The main issue however, has been finding a company to build or sell the chamber or device that would be used to put an inmate to death. Whether the state would use an entire chamber or so-called death mask to administer the gas is still unknown.

So far, the DOC has been turned down by seven different companies, those talks never even making it to a bidding phase, according to a DOC spokesperson.

The largest concern from manufacturers is retaliation against the company from customers and those opposed to the death penalty. Those concerns are similar to those of drug makers who refused to supply states, including Oklahoma, with the drugs needed for lethal injection when it was still being used.

The process of implementing the new method has been so fraught that in a recent interview with The Oklahoman, Attorney General Mike Hunter said if a willing company isn't found soon "at some point we may just have to build [the chamber or device] ourselves." He did not expand on who would build it nor how much it could cost.

47 convicted killers are currently waiting on death row, 16 of them have exhausted their appeals. But there is no telling when they could be put to death.

Last March, DOC Director Joe Allbaugh said he had hoped to resume executions in 2018. In recent interviews he expressed some frustration with the road blocks to the new method.

“I would describe us more as determined to bring this process to fruition,” DOC spokesman Matt Elliot said when asked about levels of frustration within the department. “We remain determined to make this work and perform our crucial role within the law and constitution.”

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