The Slatest

Oklahoma Death Penalty “Expert” Named Roswell Lee Evans Did Much of His Research on

The Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s death penalty practices, and Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick will be writing about the case as a whole soon. But one particular fact explored Tuesday by ProPublica is worth highlighting here: Namely, that nearly half of Oklahoma death penalty expert Roswell Lee Evans’ witness report consists of printouts from, a site which describes its own information as “not intended for medical advice.”

The case, Glossip v. Gross, hinges on the question of whether the drug midazolam causes cruel and unusual pain before causing death. From ProPublica:

A number of legal activists and medical professionals have expressed concern that Evans, a board certified psychiatric pharmacist and the dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University in Alabama, has testified that he has never used midazolam on a patient and has, in fact, never personally induced anesthesia …

It’s Evans’ reliance on a consumer website that has attracted the most scrutiny from medical professionals. “As scientists we use primary literature – it’s a little different than,” said Dr. Kathryn Cunningham, the vice chairwoman of the pharmacology and toxicology department at University of Texas Medical Branch and another of the brief’s authors. “As someone who is a scientist, we have resources available to use so we would not go to a website of this sort.”

A robust 186 pages of Evans’$2 365-page witness report are printouts—including a page with this on it:

Screen shot/ProPublica


Update, May 1, 2015: Auburn University sends the following statement: “Dr. Evans was acting in a personal capacity, not his capacity as Dean of Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy. The opinions he expressed in judicial proceedings are his own, not those of Auburn University. “