When the state of Oklahoma stopped the execution of Richard Glossip on the day he was scheduled to die this week, it wasn’t because he may very well be be an innocent man, but because they’d received the wrong lethal injection drug. Today, the state’s highest criminal court decided to postpone two other pending executions because of the mixup.
Glossip’s killing, which was protested widely, was halted at the eleventh hour when state department of corrections officials realized that they had been shipped potassium acetate and not potassium chloride, one of three drugs in Oklahoma’s lethal injection cocktail. Two acquaintances of a man named Justin Sneed, who claims that Glossip paid him to murder his employer, believe that Sneed framed Glossip to save himself from the death penalty—evidence which champions like Pope Francis and Susan Sarandon have used to advocate on Glossip’s behalf. (In February, Glossip wrote a letter to Gawker proclaiming his own innocence as part of our series of letters from death row inmates.)
The AP reports that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has issued indefinite stays on the executions of Glossip and two other prisoners, John Grant and Benjamin Cole, at the behest of state attorney general Scott Pruitt, who plans to investigate the incorrect shipment. “Until my office knows more about these circumstances and gains confidence that DOC can carry out executions in accordance with the execution protocol, I am asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to issue an indefinite stay of all scheduled executions,” Pruitt said in a statement.
This is not the first time Oklahoma has faced scrutiny for the mechanics of its executions, or that Glossip et al’s deaths have been postponed: In January, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the executions of all three men after the botched killing of an Oklahoma man named Clayton Lockett, who is believed to have suffered intense pain before his death.