Friday, April 25, 2014

Oklahoma Legislators Want to Impeach Justices Who Suspended Death Sentences

The state of Oklahoma narrowly avoided a constitutional crisis over the death penalty on Wednesday evening, after the governor moved to defy a state Supreme Court order and legislators called for impeachment of several justices.
This constitutional stand-off began on Monday, when the court issued an order halting two executions. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) responded with an executive order saying the state might proceed with the executions, despite the court order. Rep. Mike Christian (R) ordered articles of impeachment drafted on Wednesday, claiming the justices engaged in a “willful neglect of duty” by halting the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner. After this pushback from the political branches, the court lifted its order on Wednesday and allowed the executions to proceed.

The court initially stopped the executions because the inmates had sued to find out the source of the state’s lethal drugs. Oklahoma law says, “The identity of all…persons who supply the drugs…for the execution shall be confidential.” The Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately rejected the inmates’ argument that they needed this information to assert their right to avoid “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

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