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For Md. death row inmates, a manual for the final days

Steven Oken's final days were carefully scripted in a 32-page state manual with eight appendixes.

The state prison system's Execution Operations Manual establishes precise a sequence, starting 14 days before the death sentence is to be carried out, when an execution team is to be selected, through the hours after death, when a funeral director is summoned.

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In the dry language of a government training handbook, the manual - DCM 110-2 - lists, for example, preferred characteristics for a member of the execution team: "Ability to maintain confidentiality," "good moral character" and "professional appearance." It sets schedules for the execution team's drills.

The manual is labeled confidential but was released to Oken's defense team last week and became the basis of an appeal that briefly won him a stay of execution - only to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The manual provides a detailed account of how a condemned person's final days are spent.

The inmate must provide a list of no more than 10 phone numbers he would call, between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. The inmate may not receive incoming calls. He would be allowed such items as a bar of soap, a cordless electric razor and a deck of playing cards.

No more than two people -- drawn from a list of 10 - are allowed to visit the cell on the second floor of the old Maryland Penitentiary - now a prison hospital. Visits are to be limited to an hour, with no physical contact allowed.

Six hours before the execution, all visits, except by a lawyer and a clergyman, are to cease.

According to the "Lethal Injection Checklist," a team assembles 90 minutes in the death chamber to prepare the equipment. A main intravenous line and a backup would be prepared.

Eight pages are missing from the version of the manual made public. There is no mention of how the three chemicals - sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - are to be mixed and administered.

Appendix 6 is a "Certification of Pronouncement of Death."

No more than 24 hours after the execution, the warden of the penitentiary, now called Maryland Training Center, is to submit a "serious incident report."

For the record

An article in yesterday's editions about the state prison system's execution manual gave an incorrect name for the institution formerly known as the Maryland Penitentiary. The institution is the Metropolitan Transition Center.The Sun regrets the error.


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