Oklahoma: Lockett Dies from Heart Failure, 40 Minutes after Botched Execution
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Witnesses say Lockett writhed and convulsed on the gurney, shaking uncontrollably. Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett died Tuesday night, more than 40 minutes after his botched execution was halted.The execution of Charles Warner, scheduled for the same day, was suspended for two weeks. Both were refused information about the drugs used for their execution. US penitentiaries began using “experimental cocktails” after a European export ban caused shortages of approved drugs.
The string of botched, scandalous executions in the United States continues. Tuesday night, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Locket died in the death chamber from a heart failure, more than 40 minutes after the botched execution was halted.
Corrections officer Robert Patton halted the execution about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered, reports Associated Press, quoting Patton as saying that a vein failure prevented the deadly chemicals from reaching Lockett. The agency reports that witnesses to the tragic event said that Lockett writhed and convulsed on the gurney, shaking uncontrollably. At a news conference, Patton said that Lockett died after receiving all three drugs, adding:
“There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having that (expected) effect, and the doctor observed the line at that time and determined the line had blown,”
It was afterwards that it was discovered that a vein failure prevented the dug from being distributed through Lockett’s body. One question would be whether the “vein failure” was caused by an unapproved drug.
The execution started at 6.23 pm and Lockett was unconscious 10 minutes later, reports AP, adding that Lockett died 43 minutes later when the drugs began flowing. Lockett was 38 years old and had been convicted for shooting the 19 year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching two accomplices bury her alive in 1999. He was pronounced dead in the execution chamber at 7:06 pm CT. The Oklahoman described the execution in the death house in McAlester as follows:
Lockett grimaced and tensed his body several times over a three minute period before the execution was shielded from the press. After being declared unconscious ten minutes into the process, Lockett spoke at three separate moments. The first two were inaudible, however the third time he spoke, Lockett said the word “man.”
The execution of Charles Warner, who was scheduled for execution on the same day, was suspended after the incident. The Oklahoman cites Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, as saying that the execution was difficult to watch.
Both Lockett and Warner had sued Oklahoma for refusing to disclose details about the drugs which would be used for their execution, including where they had been obtained from.
The case was filed as a civil matter, reports Associated Press. The case placed Oklahoma’s two highest courts at odds and prompted calls for the impeachment of the Supreme Court justices after the court last week issued a rare stay of execution. The stay was later dissolved by the high court which dismissed that the inmates were entitled to know the source of the drugs. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin ordered an investigation into the botched execution and issued a 14-day stay of execution for Charles Warner. Fallin also ordered the Department of Corrections to review the state’s execution procedures.
Was the Execution Botched due to Another Experimental Cocktail?
Relevant questions with regard to reviewing the botched execution would for example include the question whether there has been a vein rupture, that was caused by an untested, unapproved drug?
Penitentiaries in the United States have begun “experimenting” after the US was hit by a European export ban.
Executions by lethal injection are usually carried out with a drug cocktail consisting of a fast-acting anaesthetic (sodium thiopental), a muscle-paralysing agent (pancuronium) and a cardiotoxin (potassium chloride) to stop the heart. Even with this so-called optimum cocktail, there are frequent reports about skin burns, about painful convulsions before the inmate is unconscious, and other effects which are normally not publicized.
Pressure by drug manufacturers and European export controls mean that the supply of these drugs as well as subsequent substitutions such as pentobarbital, a barbituate used for severe forms of epilepsy) is now limited, leading to executing states using different concoctions and combinations. David Nicoll is a Consultant Neurologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at University of Birmingham, wrote that
executioners in the US have been forced to look at alternatives, for example the use of compounding pharmacies who are allowed to make small batches of a prescribed medication. But such unregulated pharmacies are also controversial in the US; as recently as 2012, botched manufacturing processes led to sizeable fungal meningitis outbreaks. It’s clear the problems with supply plus the desperation of executioners to find replacement drugs have highlighted that the lethal injection method is anything but a humane process.
Nicoll stressed that executions in the USA literally are based on guesswork. Was it guesswork that caused Lockett to die from heart failure, more than 40 minutes after his botched execution was stopped?
Ch/L – nsnbc 30.04.2014