Oklahoma must postpone execution set for Thursday, court rules By Reuters3 min read

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(Reuters) -Oklahoma must postpone the executions of John Grant and Julius Jones while a legal challenge to the state’s lethal injection protocol is adjudicated, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled on Wednesday.

The execution of Grant, which was scheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, will now only go forward if the United States Supreme Court overturns the appellate panel’s ruling. The state has not yet said whether it will appeal the ruling to the country’s highest court.

In ordering the state to delay the executions of Grant and Jones, whose execution was to be held on Nov. 28, the judges said that a lower court had unfairly denied the two men delays granted to numerous other defendants pursuing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol. That method could result in a prolonged and painful death in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

“They risk being unable to present what may be a viable Eighth Amendment claim to the federal courts before they are executed using the method they have challenged,” the judges wrote.

An attorney for the condemned men, Dale Baich, welcomed the ruling.

“The Tenth Circuit did the right thing by blocking Mr. Grant’s execution on Thursday,” Baich said in a statement. “Today’s order should prevent the State from carrying out executions until the federal district court addresses the ‘credible expert criticism’ it identified in Oklahoma’s execution procedures. Those issues will be carefully reviewed by the court at the trial scheduled in February.”

A spokeswoman for Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said the state was still reviewing the case and would comment at another time.

Thirty-six U.S. states and the District of Columbia have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in the past 10 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma has not carried out executions in six years, since three botched attempts ending with the death of Charles Frederick Warner in 2015. Warner, who was convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-month-old baby, was executed using the wrong drug, officials said later.

The previous year, Clayton Lockett, convicted of murder, rape and kidnapping, regained consciousness and raised his head after the execution procedure began, only to die in apparent anguish less than an hour later, court records show.

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