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Federal Judge Refuses To Keep Oklahoma Executions On Hold

Four inmates in Oklahoma are set to be executed in the first three months of 2015. The inmates' lawyer says they will continue to fight to stop the scheduled executions.

Posted on December 22, 2014, at 11:24 p.m. ET

Handout / Reuters

A federal judge in Oklahoma on Monday refused to keep executions in the state on hold, turning down a request from four death-row inmates' scheduled to be executed in the first three months of 2015.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot denied the request for a preliminary injunction on Monday following a three-day hearing that took place last week.

"[T]he court concludes that the movants have failed to establish a probability of success on the merits of any of the five claims they assert for preliminary injunction purposes," Friot wrote in the brief order, adding that "that entry of a preliminary injunction would not be in the public interest."

The lawsuit, filed by several Oklahoma death-row inmates, followed the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April. Although Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin temporarily halted executions and reviewed the state's execution procedures, the state altered its execution protocol and has prepared to re-start executions.

Charles Warner is set to be executed on January 15, 2015, Richard Glossip on January 29, 2015, John Grant on February 19, 2015, and Benjamin Cole on March 5, 2015.

"There are several reasons for serious concern about Oklahoma's ability to carry out executions that comply with the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment," the inmates' lawyer, Dale Baich, said in a statement. "We will move forward and continue to fully challenge and expose the lack of safety and efficacy of the lethal injection procedures in Oklahoma."

Among the reasons to grant the injunction, the inmates had argued, were because they have a "real and immediate concern" they won't get "timely and meaningful notice as to how they will be executed" — depriving them of the opportunity to seek relief from the courts.

The state countered that most federal courts agree that inmates have "no due process right to information regarding the methods of their executions."

The inmates also raised Eighth Amendment claims, arguing that the drugs and procedures used and training provided have the potential to lead to cruel and unusual punishment. "Defendants continue to experiment on captive subjects by using untested procedures that produce unknown results," the inmates' lawyers wrote.

"To the extent that there is a possibility that an individual would be currently licensed, pass the requisite background checks, participate in the training, and still make a mistake in the execution process," the state responded, "this is merely an outlier possibility, not a substantial risk of serious harm created by the protocol."

Finally, the inmates raised concerns about whether they will be "able to access information, access their counsel, and in turn access the courts on the day of their executions."

Of the "claim that they have a First Amendment right to information regarding their executions," the state argued, "[T]his claim is baseless and unsupported by the law."