Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, Oklahoma

 

Update: April 24, 2014 10:00 am EDT

Late Wednesday, April 23, 2014, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted the stay of execution they had granted earlier in the week to Oklahoma inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner. The court also overturned a the decision by lower court Judge Patricia Parrish, who ruled that the state law identifying suppliers of execution drugs as a state secret was unconstitutional. With the recent Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling, and taking into consideration the stay issued Tuesday, April 22, 2014, by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, both Clayton and Charles are scheduled for execution on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

April 23, 2014 7:50 pm EDT

Will Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner be executed in Oklahoma on April 29, 2014? Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says yes! The Oklahoma Supreme Court says no! Here is the drama!

On Monday, April 21, 2014, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, scheduled for April 22 and April 29, respectively. This stay came after weeks of playing hot potato with the two inmates' case.

In January, Clayton and Charles filed a request to learn the source of the drugs to be used in their executions. Oklahoma classifies that information as a state secret, but the inmates insisted they needed the information in order to determine what, if any, risk posed by the execution drugs. Since then, the case has bounced between several courts, until Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish ruled the law unconstitutional in March. Oklahoma appealed her decision. However, Judge Parrish lacked the authority to issue a stay of execution, saying it was up to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Clayton and Charles appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for a stay until the lawsuit was resolved. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied having the jurisdiction to issue a stay. The inmates then appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who also claimed that they lacked jurisdiction and insisted that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should consider the case. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals again ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because the men were not appealing a part of their criminal case.

 

With Clayton's execution a day away, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move, issued a stay of execution for Clayton and Charles. But did they have the authority to do so? Never before has the Oklahoma Supreme Court become involved in a criminal case. Oklahoma has a bifurcated judicial system; the Court of Criminal Appeals handles all criminal cases and the Supreme Court handles all civil cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled it was not a criminal matter, while the Supreme Court ruled it was not a civil matter, but a criminal matter. With both courts refusing to take the case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, issued a stay of execution. In doing so, they said the Court of Criminal Appeals "left them in an awkward position" and that they could not leave the inmates without "access to the courts for resolution of their 'grave' constitutional claims."

 

The following day, on April 22, 2014, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution for Clayton Lockett. In her executive order, she stated that the Supreme Court stepped "outside the constitutional authority of [their] body" in issuing the stay of execution. Governor Fallin's stay lasts seven days, which means Clayton is now scheduled for execution on April 29, the same day as Charles, who has not been affected by Governor Fallin's ruling.

 

So will Clayton and Charles be executed on April 29? That depends on who you ask. According to Alex Weintz, Communication Director for the Governor's Office, the Governor is acting on the assumption that both inmates will be executed on April 29, while the Oklahoma Supreme Court is acting on the assumption that both inmates have been stayed until this matter has been resolved. Alex also said that Governor Fallin has asked the Attorney General to file a request with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals as to how to proceed.

 

 

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