Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip was supposed to be the first execution after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol.
However, that same protocol is what caused Glossip’s execution to be delayed Wednesday because of questions involving one of the three drugs used in executions.
Wednesday’s events started with a phone call from the Department of Corrections to the Attorney General's Office shortly before 1 p.m., saying there were concerns with the drugs that were going to be used in Glossip’s 3 p.m. execution.
“When the drugs were delivered to their facilities, that there was concern about was it the right potassium,” said Governor Mary Fallin.
Then, the Governor was informed and she conference-called both agencies.
“Did we have the appropriate protocol and we want to make sure that it was fair, it was right and that we were following what the protocol said, so I issued a stay of execution so we could answer that question,” Governor Fallin told News 9.
A doctor who presides over executions apparently noticed the DOC had potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.
Both are potassium and an overdose of potassium is what stops the heart in executions, but potassium acetate is not specifically listed in the state's execution protocol.
“When it comes down to the end of the day, they do the same thing, they cause hyperkalemia,” said pharmacist Dani Lynch. “Which is high potassium in your blood system which will stop your heart,” she added.
We now know a pharmacist sent potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride for the execution of Glossip without telling the DOC of the switch.
The Governor’s office released a fact sheet saying potassium acetate is the medically appropriate equivalent to potassium chloride.
Glossip's attorneys said there is a pattern of problems with Oklahoma's execution protocols.
“We hope that the public would be concerned and demand that the Department of Corrections be more transparent about this,” said Dale Baich, Glossip's Lethal Injection Attorney.
Oklahoma has never used potassium acetate in an execution, so the Governor said there was too much legal ambiguity to execute Glossip yesterday.
The DOC added that it cannot store drugs so when Glossip's execution was stayed for the second time back on September 16th, the DOC shipped that unopened medication back to the provider.