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New Report Regarding Use of Midazolam for Executionst: Oklahoma Misleads the Supreme Court

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What drove Oklahoma to use the controversial drug midazolam in lethal injection executions?

That was a key point of debate two weeks ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Glossip v. Gross, a case addressing whether the drug midazolam--a drug implicated in several botched executions last year--is constitutional.

One of Oklahoma's arguments, echoed by Justices Alito and Scalia during oral argument, has been that anti-death penalty activists have made other drugs unavailable. As supposed proof of this, Oklahoma presented in its brief a letter about a compounding pharmacy refusing to provide to the state pentobarbital it had previously provided.

But a new report by BuzzFeed calls the veracity of this evidence into question.

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In an investigation released today, BuzzFeed reporter Chris McDaniel finds that " Oklahoma heavily redacted a letter that was sent to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice -- " but told the high court that it was actually sent to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections."

From the report:

In Oklahoma' s brief, they state that the source of pentobarbital stopped supplying the drug to the state because the source faced " intense pressure" to stop.
As proof of their claim, Oklahoma s lawyers presented a heavily redacted letter they claim was sent to "ODOC"--the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

But according to the pharmacy that wrote that letter, that never happened.

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In a statement to Buzzfeed, the compounding pharmacy flat-out denies ever providing execution drugs to Oklahoma, and says, " stating Woodlands pharmacy supplied execution drugs to Oklahoma would be an act of libel and/or slander."

Here' s where the letter actually comes from:

The Woodlands letter was actually sent to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; an unredacted version of the letter was filed in federal court in Arizona in a lawsuit challenging that state' s execution protocol. In that letter, Woodlands asks Texas to return pentobarbital that it sent, saying it had believed their relationship " would be kept on the ' down low.'"

Will Glossip play out differently now we know that one of the state's key arguments was supported by a gross misrepresentation of its evidence? We' ll see when the Court issues its decision in June.

 

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Jose Cornejo is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin.
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