Oklahoma reached a deal with three death row inmates on Friday to put their executions on hold until well into 2016 or even longer to investigate problems with death chamber protocols after the wrong drug was provided last month for use in one of the men's scheduled lethal injection.
The announcement in a court filing came after an Oklahoma court on Oct. 2 granted Oklahoma's request to indefinitely postpone the three upcoming executions so it could examine a drug mix-up discovered just hours before inmate Richard Glossip was to have been put to death in September.
Under the deal, Oklahoma must provide the lawyers for the three death row inmates - Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole - notice and copies of its probe and other local and federal investigations.
It must also provide notice of any changes that come to the state's death chamber protocols, while the state's Department of Corrections must establish that it can carry out executions under the established protocols.
Once those tasks have been dealt with, the Oklahoma Attorney General would not seek an execution date for at least 150 days, which means executions would be on hold well into 2016 and perhaps much longer.
"I expect that the investigation will take some time," said Dale Baich, an attorney for Glossip.
Glossip was convicted of arranging the 1997 killing of the owner of an Oklahoma City motel that Glossip was managing.
Oklahoma halted his lethal injection when it discovered two hours before the scheduled execution it had received potassium acetate, which experts said is not on the lethal injection protocol of any state, instead of potassium chloride, a drug used in executions to stop the heart.
Under the deal, Glossip would put on hold his challenge to his execution in federal court. Glossip's attorneys said they have evidence that points to his innocence.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt gave no indication as to when the state expects to finish its investigation.
"My office does not plan to ask the court to set an execution date until the conclusion of its investigation," Pruitt said.
Oklahoma revised its death chamber protocols in 2014 after a flawed execution in which medical staff did not properly place an intravenous line on convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, who was seen twisting in pain on the gurney.
He died about 45 minutes after the procedure began because an accumulation of chemicals had built up in his tissue.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City; Editing by Will Dunham)