Oklahoma Botches Clayton Lockett’s Execution
McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma prison officials halted an inmate’s execution after a new drug combination left the man writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney. He later died of a heart attack.
Clayton Lockett, 38, was declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of three drugs in the state’s new lethal injection combination was administered Tuesday evening. Three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.
The blinds were eventually lowered to prevent those in the viewing gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber, and the state’s top prison official eventually called a halt to the proceedings. Lockett died of a heart attack a short time later, the Department of Corrections said.
“It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched,” said Lockett’s attorney, David Autry.
The problems with the execution are likely to fuel more debate about the ability of states to administer lethal injections that meet the U.S. Constitution’s requirement they be neither cruel nor unusual punishment. That question has drawn renewed attention from defense attorneys and death penalty opponents in recent months, as several states scrambled to find new sources of execution drugs because drugmakers that oppose capital punishment — many based in Europe — have stopped selling to U.S. prisons and corrections departments.
Defense attorneys have unsuccessfully challenged several states’ policies of shielding the identities of the source of their execution drugs. Missouri and Texas, like Oklahoma, have both refused to reveal their sources and both of those states have carried out executions with their new supplies.
Tuesday was the first time Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam as the first element in its execution drug combination. Other states have used it before; Florida administers 500 milligrams of midazolam as part of its three-drug combination. Oklahoma used 100 milligrams of that drug.
“They should have anticipated possible problems with an untried execution protocol,” Autry said. “Obviously the whole thing was gummed up and botched from beginning to end. Halting the execution obviously did Lockett no good.”
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin ordered a 14-day stay of execution for an inmate who was scheduled to die two hours after Lockett, Charles Warner. She also ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to conduct a “full review of Oklahoma’s execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening’s execution.”
Robert Patton, the department’s director, halted Lockett’s execution about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered. He later said there had been vein failure.
The execution began at 6:23 p.m., when officials began administering the midazolam. A doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33 p.m.
Once an inmate is declared unconscious, the state’s execution protocol calls for the second drug, a paralytic, to be administered. The third drug in the protocol is potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Patton said the second and third drugs were being administered when a problem was noticed. He said it’s unclear how much of the drugs made it into the inmate’s system.
Lockett began writhing at 6:36. At 6:39, a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering the inmate to examine the injection site.
“There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having that (desired) effect, and the doctor observed the line at that time and determined the line had blown,” Patton said at a news conference afterward, referring to Lockett’s vein rupturing.
After an official lowered the blinds, Patton made a series of phone calls before calling a halt to the execution.
“After conferring with the warden, and unknown how much drugs went into him, it was my decision at that time to stop the execution,” Patton told reporters.
Lockett was declared dead at 7:06 p.m.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which was not a party in the legal challenge to the state’s execution law, called for an immediate moratorium on state executions.
Warner had been scheduled to be executed two hours later in the same room and on the same gurney. The 46-year-old was convicted of raping and killing his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997. He has maintained his innocence.
By then, Fallin had issued a stay of her own — a one-week delay in Lockett’s execution that resulted in both men being scheduled to die on the same day.
Both men had sued to know more about the exection drugs and their suit was denied by the Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier this month.
Shocking Number Of Innocent People Sentenced To Death, Study Finds
More than 4 percent of inmates sentenced to death in the United States are probably innocent, according to a study published Monday that sent shock waves across the anti-death penalty community.
What the researchers call a “conservative estimate” about the number of wrongfully convicted death row inmates is more than double the percentage of capital defendants who were exonerated during more than three decades that were studied. That means innocent people are languishing behind bars, according to the study.
Read the rest here.
How could Oklahoma think that 100 mg of midazolam would be enough to generate a humane death when Florida is using 500 mg????? This dose Has never been tested on a human being!!!! It is monsterous to make inmates test subjects for executions! MONSTEROUS! INHUMANE!!! It turned out to be torture of the most hideous kind for Mr. Clayton. How is the death penalty allowed to continue under these circumstances?
Secondly, a study shows that greater than 4% of innocent people are sentenced to death. This begs the question of how many innocent people have been executed. I know for sure of at least one: Cameron Todd Willingham. This proves that execution cannot be meted out fairly and thus should not be used at all.
EXECUTE JUSTICE: NOT PEOPLE
If you would like to get even angrier, read this.
Here is what Rachel Maddow had to say about this last night: