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Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

An Oklahoma inmate’s execution failed tonight after the delivery of the lethal injection drugs was botched and the inmate suffered a massive heart attack on the gurney.

Clayton Lockett, 38, was slated to be the first of two executions tonight in Oklahoma, in what was going to be the state’s first double execution since 1937 (more background on the crime and lead-up to the executions here). However, as reporters waited for confirmation of a time of death almost an hour after the injection was scheduled to proceed, it became clear that something had gone wrong.

Finally reporters were told that the execution had been halted about 20 minutes after the first drug was injected, when Lockett was still moving and mumbling on the gurney.

According to Associated Press reporter Bailey Elise McBride, whose Twitter feed is a blow-by-blow account of what the media was told following the procedure, “Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.”

“It was extremely difficult to watch,” Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, told the AP

More from McBride’s AP account:

“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 that, an official who was inside the death chamber lowered the blinds, preventing those in the viewing room from seeing what was happening.

Patton then made a series of phone calls before calling a halt to the execution.

KFOR in Oklahoma provided a timeline (which Andrew Cohen tidied up for his take for The Atlantic):

6:23 PM – Prison officials raise the blinds. Execution begins.

6:28 PM – Inmate shivering, sheet shaking.  Breathing deep.

6:29 PM – Inmate blinking and gritting his teeth.  Adjusts his head.

6:30 PM – Prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.  Doctor says, “He’s not unconscious.”  Inmate says “I’m not.”  Female prison official says, “Mr. Lockett is not unconscious.”

6:32 PM – Inmate’s breathing is normal, mouth open, eyes shut. For a second time, prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.

6:33 PM – Doctor says, “He is unconscious.” Prison official says “Mr. Lockett is unconscious.”

6:34 PM – Inmate’s mouth twitches.  No sign of breathing.

6:35 PM – Mouth movement.

6:36 PM – Inmate’s head moves from side to side, then lifts his head off the bed.

6:37 PM – Inmate lifts his head and feet slightly off the bed.  Inmate tries to say something, mumbles while moving body.

6:38 pm – More movement by the inmate. At this point the inmate is breathing heavily and appears to be struggling.

6:39 PM – Inmate tries to talk. Says “man” and appears to be trying to get up. Doctor checks on inmate. Female prison official says, “We are going to lower the blinds temporarily.” Prison phone rings. Director of Prisons Robert Patton answers the phone and leaves the room—taking three state officials with him.

Minutes later—the director of prisons comes back into the room and tells the eyewitnesses that there has been a vein failure. He says, “The chemical did not make it into the vein of the prisoner. Under my authority, we are issuing a stay of execution.”

Charles Warner, originally set to be the second execution of the night at 8 p.m., has had his execution postponed for 14 days while an investigation is conducted.

This sort of prolonged, failed execution is exactly what attorneys for both men were afraid of when they filed appeals asserting their client’s constitutional right to know the source of the drugs being used to execute them. The claims led to a heated back and forth over the past two weeks, exposing tensions in the state’s leadership.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, released a statement following the failed execution:

“After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight’s lethal injection procedures, tonight, Clayton Lockett was tortured to death.

‘Without question, we must get complete answers about what went wrong. There must be an independent investigation conducted by a third-party entity, not the Department of Corrections. We also need an autopsy by an independent pathologist and full transparency about the results of its findings. Additionally, the state must disclose complete information about the drugs, including their purity, efficacy, source and the results of any testing. Until much more is known about tonight’s failed experiment of an execution, no execution can be permitted in Oklahoma.”

Related Reading:

A Breakdown of Tonight’s Double Execution in Oklahoma

Man Dies of Heart Attack After Botched Execution

Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched

What Happens to the Death Penalty When Lethal Injection Isn’t Quick and Painless?

How Oklahoma’s Botched Execution Affects the Death-Penalty Debate

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