OKLAHOMA CITY -- A retired New York attorney is suing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, saying its claim to have no records pertaining to the drugs it plans to use in upcoming executions “defies belief.”
Fred Hodara, who filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court, is asking the court to compel the corrections department to comply with his open records requests for documentation of its execution plans. He says in his lawsuit that in response to his requests for the records, including some the department is legally required to keep, the department told him none exist, the Tulsa World reported.
"In light of the scope and nature of the requests, the assertation defies belief,” the lawsuit states, arguing that the agency has a history of refusing to search for and produce records that are subject to the state's Open Records Act.
A department spokesman told the newspaper that the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Oklahoma is preparing to execute John Marion Grant on Oct. 28. It would be the state's first execution since 2015, when then-Gov. Mary Fallin put a moratorium on them following the execution of Charles Warner with a drug that wasn't authorized to be used that way. A year earlier, the state botched the execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, who was the first Oklahoma inmate to be put to death with the drug midazolam. Lockett writhed and moaned on the gurney before state officials tried to halt the execution midway through it. He died anyway 43 minutes after the execution began.
In his lawsuit, Hodara said he requested records including “drug inventories or logs, records containing drug expiration dates, documents related to the quality testing of drugs, as well as documents and correspondence related to the purchase of the drugs.” He said he did so because of the department's problematic past executions and to ensure that it follows the law when it resumes.
“After all that happened in that 2014, 2015 and 2016 period with the botched executions, people like myself and all over the country were focused on what had gone wrong and the lack of transparency and accountability,” Hodara told The Associated Press. “I simply wanted to know through the Open Records request what has changed, how they’re going to do this in an accountable way with good governance."