Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Oklahoma on Constitutionality of Death Penalty

News 6 - October 20, 2022 6:48 am


The federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma’s execution protocol does not violate the US Constitution or federal law.

The case was brought by numerous Oklahoma death row inmates and has been ongoing for nearly a decade.

Related: Oklahoma Death Row Inmates Ask Federal Appeals Court To Halt Executions

The ruling also held that death row inmates do not have the right to have lawyers at their side, with a phone, during the execution itself because they have not shown any actual ‘injury in fact.’

At trial earlier this year, the inmates had claimed an actual injury caused by Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, and specifically the use of the drug midazolam. But the district court disagreed, finding that all recent executions in Oklahoma proceeded in a constitutional manner and that Oklahoma’s protocol “worked as intended.”

The district court found that the inmates “have fallen well short of clearing the bar set by the Supreme Court” for a successful Eighth Amendment challenge. Based on the testimony of several expert anesthesiologists, the trial court held the “evidence persuade[d] the court, and not by a small margin,” that midazolam “can be relied upon… to render the inmate insensate to pain for the few minutes required to complete the execution.” This ruling was so definitive that the inmates declined to renew their claims against midazolam on appeal to the Tenth Circuit, raising only the access-to-lawyer issue.  


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