The Centre for Human Rights is always putting together thought provoking, forward thinking events based around the Centre's research. You can find details on our forthcoming events below.

Experimental Executions: Schrödinger's Cat on Oklahoma’s Death Row

Tuesday 29 November 2016    6pm - 7.30pm

Room C192, Curzon Building, City Centre Campus, Birmingham City University
Inaugural Lecture of the BCU Professor of Human Rights, Professor Jon Yorke

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Following the construction of a state-of-the-art death chamber and an amended execution protocol to provide an efficient means to put inmates to death, Oklahoma’s capital judicial system is still struggling for institutional legitimacy. The state’s Department of Corrections facilitated the botched execution of Charles Warner in January 2015, and in October 2015, operational mistakes led to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary receiving the wrong execution drugs and so Governor Mary Fallin had to suspend the execution of Richard Glossip, who is also very likely to be innocent of the crime of commissioning a murder.

Since the Governor’s Order, the state’s machinery of death has been under a Multicounty Grand Jury review, and it is clear that there are still questions casting significant doubt as to whether Oklahoma can maintain a fair and humane implementation of capital punishment.

This lecture will tell the story of the uncomfortable relationship between the “science” and “constitutional law” of lethal injection and aims to reveal the interpretive frisson. There are damning claims that Oklahoma has knowingly selected inadequate pharmacology for its process of putting inmates to death, and great uncertainty surrounds the biological effects and dose interactions of the injected drugs.

Oklahoma’s execution procedures have moulded the death row inmate in the semblance of Erwin Schrödinger's cat. An illegitimate juridical-superposition experiment has been created in which the inmate will be put to death without needless suffering, and at the same time, be in a position of inexpressible internal trauma. It is only after the execution and the findings recorded in the autopsy report that one of the juridical-superpositions will collapse. This unacceptable circumstance is maintained by the state and federal courts hindering the epistemology of the execution pharmacology in order to affirm the state’s use of underdeveloped science.

The barbarity of the death penalty remains in Oklahoma, although it is undeniable that the punishment’s death knell can be heard chiming in the wind sweeping down the plains.    

Professor Yorke’s Inaugural Lecture will be published in the Oklahoma Law Review in March 2017.



Professor Jon Yorke is Professor of Human Rights at Birmingham City University, where he is the Director of the BCU Centre for Human Rights (CHR). He is an advisor to the European Union on the death penalty, and a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Expert Panel on the Death Penalty and the FCO Pro Bono Lawyer’s Panel. He has presented in the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and he leads the CHR work for stakeholders in the Universal Periodic Review undertaken by the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In 2014 Professor Yorke drafted legal opinions for the Meriam Ibrahim litigation in Sudan, and in 2015 he led the team which filed the amicus curiae briefof the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the case of Linda Carty in the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas. His publications have been used to promote human rights in the political regions and safeguard many individuals in various countries.