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'Man up': Oklahoma judge advises corrections staff to toughen up and refrain from requesting more time between executions

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin said corrections staff should “man up,” rather than asking for time between executions.

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Left: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin (Photo via Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals). Right: FILE – This Oct. 9, 2014, file photo shows the gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File).

An Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals judge openly stated that instead of spacing out executions enough to allow corrections staff to recuperate from a tiring series of back-to-back deaths, those involved should simply 'man up' and 'suck it up.'

An audio recording of Judge Gary Lumpkin's rather unsympathetic remarks is available here.

At a hearing Tuesday, the judge responded to Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond's official request to extend the time between executions to 90 days in an effort to reduce the strain on corrections staff. Drummond, a Republican, is the same attorney general who made headlines when, during his 2018 political campaign, he featured photos of murdered University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in a segment that said 'illegal aliens' are committing 'the most heinous crimes'.

In January 2023, Drummond filed a motion about the upcoming executions of Richard Eugene Glossip, Jemaine Monteil Cannon, Anthony Castillo Sanchez, Phillip Dean Hancock, James Chandler Ryder, Michael Dewayne Smith, and Wade Greely Lay. Drummond said in the filing that in the preceding fifteen months, the Department of Corrections (DOC) successfully carried out eight executions while 'exhibiting work ethic, professionalism, and concern for the victims’ families throughout.'

'As is to be expected, DOC leadership and personnel have continuously sought to learn and improve during this process,' Drummond noted.

The attorney general's commendations for DOC staff were more than boilerplate language in a court filing — they were representations made against the backdrop of a series of highly problematic executions in Oklahoma.

In July 2022, Oklahoma resumed executions after six-year hiatus; its Court of Criminal Appeals set execution dates for six new inmates — 25 of the 43 people then on death row — and scheduled executions one per month through December 2024. The reason for Oklahoma's six-year freeze on executions was that just hours before inmate Richard Glossip was to be executed in 2015, prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug.

Glossip's execution was paused, then additional investigation revealed that the same incorrect drug had been used in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett earlier the same year. Lockett's execution was stopped midway when he began to groan, convulse, and speak during the process. Lockett suffered a heart attack and died 43 minutes later.

In Drummond's motion requesting additional time between executions, he did not specifically refer to the myriad problems in the state’s recent executions, but said that it had, 'become clear over time is that the current pace of executions is unsustainable in the long run, as it is unduly burdening the DOC and its personnel.'

Drummond stated in the motion that the extensive and intensive training DOC personnel undergo to prepare for each execution makes it especially true.

As the chief law officer, Drummond expressed his reluctance to oversee a failed execution. argued to During the hearing, the attorney general stated, "I am present with every execution. I look the defendant in the eye as he dies."

The attorney general added that after the lethal injections are administered, he looks the men and women administering them in the eye and sympathizes with their strain.

Lumpkin was openly unreceptive.

Lumpkin demanded Drummond, an Air Force captain awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service during the Gulf War, to toughen up and fulfill the duty. Air Force captain awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service during the Gulf War.

Lumpkin reprimanded Drummond during the hearing, expressing the need to stop delaying executions and fulfill the duty in a timely and professional manner.

Lumpkin insisted that the duty to carry out executions was imposed on corrections staff by the legislature, and argued that the current staff should be able to carry out multiple executions in a reasonable and timely way.

Lumpkin did not address the state's problematic history of carrying out executions during the colloquy, nor the fact that Richard Glossip’s execution has been rescheduled eight times and currently has an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. pending Before the U.S. Supreme Court, there is an appeal regarding Richard Glossip’s execution which has been rescheduled eight times.

During the colloquy, Lumpkin expressed confusion about Drummond’s request to space out executions, and suggested that others should fulfill their duties without sympathy talk.

Lumpkin compared the situation to an undisciplined child pushing the envelope in his remarks from the bench.

Extensive research has shown that court and prison staff often suffer severe and persistent trauma as a result of being required to participate in actual and mock executions. Over at least the last decade, many have denounced use of the phrase “man up,” as an offensive perpetuation of gender-based stereotypes and a dangerous call to ignore mental health needs.

Lumpkin has not yet ruled on Drummond’s request for extended time between executions.

Lumpkin has been an elected judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals since 1989. His current term ends on Jan. 11, 2027, after being reelected in 2020.

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