By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Published: 6/2/2010 2:21 AM
Last Modified: 6/2/2010 4:28 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill sent to Gov. Brad Henry's desk would give the Oklahoma Department of Corrections more flexibility in carrying out executions.
House Bill 2266 also would put restrictions on whom the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System could represent.
Current state law directs the Department of Corrections to use "an ultra-short acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent." The new legislation would strike the language specifying what type of drugs must be used.
The new language would give the DOC more flexibility to make changes to the execution protocol if medical procedures change or a court determines a problem exists, attorney general spokesman Charlie Price said Tuesday.
The state's lethal injection method has been previously challenged and upheld, Price said.
Oklahoma uses sodium thiopental to cause unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide to stop breathing and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
DOC Director Justin Jones said sodium thiopental is an older-generation drug and in short supply.
Newer drugs are becoming available, Jones said.
Ninety-two inmates have been executed by lethal injection, including three women. The first was Muskogee County killer Charles Troy Coleman on Sept. 10, 1990.
Prior to that, 82 were executed using electrocution.
McClain County death-row inmate Jeffrey David Matthews is scheduled for execution June 17.
HB 2266 also would put limits on who could be represented by the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System. The measure would prohibit district court judges from appointing OIDS lawyers to represent criminal defendants who post bail and get out of jail during their cases, unless that representation is paid for out of the local court fund.
The measure would not affect Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, which have separate public defender systems.
Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, the House sponsor, said the measure would reduce the cost of legal services to taxpayers.
Duncan is running for district attorney in Pawnee and Osage counties.
Joe Robertson, OIDS executive director, said it is designed to reduce the agency's caseload.
"Our caseloads have been climbing even though criminal filings are down," Robertson said. "A larger percentage of the accused are indigent."
The measure will likely not impact a requirement that the system provide adequate representation, he said.
"The court still has the authority to make an appointment, but it will be paid out of court funds rather than by OIDS," Robertson said.
Barbara Hoberock (405) 528-2465