The Oklahoma Attorney General asked the US Supreme Court to halt the next three executions in the state. This, as the nation's highest court considers Oklahoma's execution procedures.
In a rare move, the Oklahoma Attorney General filed the application for the stay, Monday. If the US Supreme Court grants it, officials said all executions in Oklahoma will likely be stopped until this spring at the earliest.
The Supreme Court review centers around Richard Glossip, who was next in line on Oklahoma's death row. Authorities said he's accused of paying another man $10,000 to kill the owner of an Oklahoma City motel back in 1997.
At issue was not the circumstances surrounding the case, but one of the drugs used in the execution, midazolam, which defense attorneys said does not render the inmate completely unconscious and is cruel and unusual punishment. The nation's highest court agreed on Friday to hear the case. Monday, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked to delay the executions of Glossip, as well as John Grant, who was set to be executed on Feb. 19 and Benjamin Cole, who's execution was scheduled for March 5.
“It's a wise move from our attorney general,” said Brady Henderson, the Legal Director with the Oklahoma ACLU. Henderson said he usually finds himself on opposite ends of the death penalty debate. But he said he sees delaying any further executions as the right move for all involved. The Supreme Court only needed four votes to take the case, but five were necessary to grant a stay.
“I don't think it was necessary certain either way because we do have a divided court,” Henderson said.
The application asked for a stop to all executions until the Supreme Court makes a decision on the constitutionality of Oklahoma's protocol or alternatively, until "ODOC has in its possession a viable alternative to midazolam for use in its executions."
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case on April 29, incidentally the anniversary of Clayton Lockett's delayed execution.
Glossip's attorneys also said they agreed that delaying the executions was appropriate.
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections only said they are aware of the stay, and was not commenting beyond that.