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Oklahoma Used Wrong Execution Drug In January, Autopsy Report Shows

The state called off an execution last week after discovering it had obtained the wrong drug. But according to an autopsy report the state already used the incorrect drug in a previous execution.

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A week after Oklahoma called off an execution due to a drug mix-up, an autopsy report has revealed it used the same incorrect drug in a previous execution in January.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections, which has been under intense scrutiny since it botched an execution last year, called off the planned execution of Richard Glossip last week after discovering that it had received potassium acetate, and not potassium chloride, as its procedures require.

The DOC said its supplier made the switch last week without informing them. The execution doctor noticed the mistake, and the state called off last week's execution after briefly considering using the wrong drug anyway.

But according to an autopsy report, the state already used the wrong drug earlier this year in the execution of Charles Warner.

The mistake was first reported by the Oklahoman.

After the Glossip execution was called off, Attorney General Scott Pruitt promised an investigation into what went wrong and issued a scathing statement that questioned the DOC's competency.

"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.

Pruitt told the Oklahoman that his investigation will cover any previous drug mistakes as well.

"I want to assure the public that our investigation will be full, fair and complete and includes not only actions on Sept. 30, but any and all actions prior, relevant to the use of potassium acetate and potassium chloride," Pruitt said.

Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton declined to comment "out of respect for" the attorney general's investigation.

"We cannot trust Oklahoma to get it right or to tell the truth," Dale Baich, an attorney representing inmates on death row said in a statement.

"The State's disclosure that it used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride during the execution of Charles Warner yet again raises serious questions about the ability of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to carry out executions. The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the State says potassium acetate was used. We will explore this in detail through the discovery process in the federal litigation."

Warner was executed for raping and murdering an 11 month old infant in 1997.

The Warner execution was the state's first execution since Clayton Lockett, in which the inmate writhed on the gurney for 43 minutes. In that execution, executioners complained that they lacked the correct equipment, and a state investigation found it was ultimately due to an IV insertion issue.

According to a copy of the autopsy report, Warner's body was transported to the medical examiner with a box containing 12 empty vials of potassium acetate.

The autopsy report also noted that the syringes were still labelled with tape that said "potassium chloride" on them, however.

Gov. Mary Fallin told the Oklahoman that her office was not aware until recently that they had used the wrong drug.

"I was not aware nor was anyone in my office aware of that possibility until the day of Richard Glossip's scheduled execution," she said.

The toxicology report shows the presence of midazolam, the sedative Oklahoma uses, in Warner's bloodstream, but does not show the presence of any of the two other drugs.

Warner exclaimed "My body is on fire" during his execution. The state says he had only been injected with midazolam when he said that. The execution log forms also claim potassium chloride was used, although they are standardized forms.

Patton said the supplier of the drugs, which the state keeps secret, made the decision to switch out the drug after it could not obtain the correct one. According to Patton, when contacted about the mix-up, the supplier told state officials the drugs are interchangeable.

See the autopsy:

Chris McDaniel is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is C90B B2EF E872 EF22 4EDA DABB 50E6 F2BE 1164 FCAF

Contact Chris McDaniel at chris.mcdaniel@buzzfeed.com.

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