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Autopsy Shows Oklahoma Used Wrong Drug to Kill Man Who Said His Body Was 'On Fire'

State ACLU chapter says events show 'incompetence'

According to Warner's autopsy, potassium acetate was used during his execution, not potassium chloride. (Photo: Ken Piorkowski/flickr/cc)

Oklahoma correctional officials in January used the wrong drug to execute Charles Warner, who said his body was "on fire" after the injection was administered, according to his autopsy report released Thursday.

The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner revealed that officials had used potassium acetate to stop Warner's heart—violating state protocols, which require potassium chloride.

Oklahoma correctional officers received the same incorrect drug on September 30 ahead of the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip, who received a stay from Governor Mary Fallin after she was made aware of the erroneous delivery.

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Shortly thereafter, Attorney General Scott Pruitt launched an investigation into those circumstances and confirmed to the Oklahoman that his inquiry would stretch back to cover "any and all actions prior, relevant to the use of potassium acetate and potassium chloride."

Fallin also said that she supported a separate investigation into Warner's death and would delay any executions until her office has "complete confidence" in the state's justice system. She said she had been unaware that potassium acetate had been used to kill Warner until the wrong pharmaceuticals arrived again, this time for Glossip.

Glossip's attorney, Dale Baich, said the news shows that Oklahoma cannot be trusted to undertake the death penalty.

"The State's disclosure that it used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride during the execution of Charles Warner yet again raises serious questions about the ability of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to carry out executions," Baich said. "The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the State says potassium acetate was used. We will explore this in detail through the discovery process in the federal litigation."

ACLU-Oklahoma said the latest error illustrated the "incompetence" of the state's justice system.

"If Oklahomans had any doubt that their government can competently exercise its greatest authority over human life, then those doubts should be magnified ten-fold today," said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU-Oklahoma executive director. "We fail to understand how anyone could say the events of the past several months resemble justice."

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