Oklahoma Inmate Denied Stay of Execution, But Minister Allowed in Chamber During Injection

An Oklahoma inmate was denied a stay of execution Tuesday but the Judge allowed for his spiritual advisor to be inside the chamber during his final moments before the execution, the Associated Press reported.

Bigler Stouffer II, 79, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Linda Reaves, a schoolteacher, in Oklahoma City in 1985. He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next month.

Stouffer's request for a stay of execution was denied but Judge Stephen Friot allowed his request for the minister to accompany him inside the death chamber during his final moments before his execution.

Greg Laird, Stouffer's attorney, said Reverend Howard Potts, a Baptist minister, will be allowed in the chambers and is allowed to touch him during the process, pending a background check.

Stouffer and his attorneys argued that Oklahoma state's current drug cocktail used for lethal injections would "subject him to unconstitutional pain and suffering."

Stouffer said he should be included in the federal lawsuit with other death row inmates that are challenging the state's lethal injection protocol. The case is going to trial in February.

"It doesn't appear from the evidence we heard that the state of Oklahoma has figured out how to execute people without some sort of incident, and it should stop," Laird said after the hearing.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Bigler Jobe Stouffer II, Oklahoma, Execution
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Bigler Jobe Stouffer II. A federal judge in Oklahoma has denied a death row inmate's request for a stay of execution. Judge Stephen Friot on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, denied the request from inmate Bigler Stouffer II. The 79-year-old Stouffer is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Dec. 9. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1985 slaying of schoolteacher Linda Reaves. Oklahoma Department of Corrections/AP Photo

Laird said he filed an appeal of the judge's ruling with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Among those who testified during a hearing Monday before Friot was former Republican state Senator Ervin Yen, an anesthesiologist who spoke about his experience administering midazolam, a sedative that is the first drug used in lethal injections in Oklahoma. Yen, who is running as an independent for governor in 2022, was hired by the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General to testify at a cost of $1,500 per day, court documents show.

Yen wrote in a report for the court that in his opinion, a 500-miligram dose of midazolam, which Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol calls for, would cause a person to be unconscious within seconds and unable to feel pain.

Yen also testified that he was a witness for the state during the October 28 execution of John Grant, who convulsed and vomited after receiving the first dose of midazolam.

Stouffer could still avoid the death penalty if Republican Governor Kevin Stitt agrees to grant him clemency, which the state's Pardon and Parole Board recommended last week in a 3-2 vote, citing the state's history of problematic lethal injections.

Oklahoma had one of the nation's busiest death chambers until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. Richard Glossip was just hours away from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug. It was later learned that the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state's prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

Executions in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state, have been delayed amid legal questions over that state's refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch prisoners and pray aloud as they are put to death.

Death Penalty Protest
Oklahoma had one of the nation's busiest death chambers until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. Here, activists protest the death penalty in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2017. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images