The five inmates include Julius Jones, who was convicted of murdering an insurance executive in his parents’ driveway after the victim returned from a back-to-school shopping trip with his daughters. His case gained prominence after a television series in 2018 highlighted his claim of innocence. A DNA test initiated by his defense team the same year further linked Jones to the 1999 murder.
Jones’ execution is scheduled for Nov. 28.
U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot denied a request for a preliminary injunction by Jones and four other inmates. The ruling paved the way for Oklahoma to proceed with seven lethal execution injections in the next six months.
A moratorium on capital punishment has been in place in Oklahoma since 2015 as a result of three consecutive botched executions. Richard Glossip, the lead plaintiff in the case overseen by Friot, was hours away from his execution in September 2015 when officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug. It was later learned that the same wrong drug was used for an execution in January 2015.
Glossip was convicted of commissioning the gruesome baseball bat murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of an Oklahoma City inn where Glossip worked as a manager.
The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection—and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.
Lockett was convicted in 2000 of murder, rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, assault, and battery. He shot a 19-year-old high school graduate Stephanie Neiman twice in the chest from a distance of six feet and two feet using a sawed-off shotgun, tearing her chest and shoulder. Lockett then instructed his accomplices to bury the victim alive. She died of her injuries.
Last year, Oklahoma announced plans to resume lethal injection executions using a three-drug regimen consisting of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride.
The state is scheduled to conduct its first execution in more than six years on Oct. 28 when John Marion Grant, 60, is set to receive a lethal injection for the 1998 killing of a prison cafeteria worker.
Twenty-six of the 32 Oklahoma death row inmates who were on the original legal challenge provided the court with an alternative method of execution, including the use of different drug combinations or firing squad. According to a table included in the judge’s order, 19 of the 32 inmates proposed firing squad as an alternative method of execution.
Attorneys for the five inmates vowed to immediately appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
“We will be asking the 10th Circuit to review Judge Friot’s decision and to issue a stay for Mr. Grant’s execution, as well as for the executions scheduled in the coming months,” said assistant public defender Dale Baich, one of Jones’ attorneys.
“The district court acknowledged there are serious questions about the drug protocol used by Oklahoma and that it could cause unconstitutional pain and suffering. With the trial on that question scheduled for February 2022, executions should not go forward.”
A spokeswoman for Attorney General John O’Connor declined to comment on Friot’s ruling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.