The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is calling for an indefinite stay on executions in the wake of the state’s botched killing of inmate Clayton Lockett earlier this week, an incident some have likened to torture.
Robert Patton, the department director, sent a minute-by-minute execution timeline to Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday that includes a request for the state to halt all executions until it can review and revise its protocols for carrying out death sentences.
“It will take several days or possibly a few weeks to refine the new protocols,” said Patton, who attended Lockett’s execution. “Once written, staff will require extensive training and understanding of new protocols before an execution can be scheduled.”
Patton’s recommendations include more oversight placed in the hands of “upper management and ultimately on the Director of Corrections.” Less responsibility, he said, should fall to the warden.
The detailed timeline included in Patton’s letter walks through the events leading up to Lockett’s death, which occurred 43 minutes after the prisoner was administered a new and untested lethal injection. Those three drugs were intravenously pushed into Lockett via his “groin area,” according to the timeline, after a medical official could not locate a “viable insertion point” on Lockett’s arms, legs or feet.
Once it was clear the execution was not going as planned, about 19 minutes since it started, officials lowered the death chamber’s blinds. This is what happened next:
The doctor checked the IV and reported the blood vein had collapsed, and the drugs had either absorbed into the tissue, leaked out or both. The warden immediately contacted the director by phone and reported the information to the director. The director asked the following question, “Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?” The doctor responded, “No.” The director asked, “Is another vein available, and if so, are there enough drugs remaining?” The doctor responded, “No” to both questions. The director requested clarification as to whether enough drugs had been administered to cause death. The doctor responded, “No.” The director asked the condition of the offender, the warden responded the doctor was checking the offender’s heart beat and found a faint heartbeat and the offender was unconscious.
Twelve minutes after being contacted, Patton called off the execution “under the authority granted by the governor.” Lockett was pronounced dead due to a heart attack 10 minutes later, according to the timeline.
Madeline Cohen, an attorney for death-row inmate Charles Warner, who was originally scheduled for execution just hours after Lockett, condemned Oklahoma for “revealing information about this excruciatingly inhumane execution in a chaotic manner, with the threat of execution looming.”
“As the Oklahoma Department of Corrections dribbles out piecemeal information about Clayton Lockett’s botched execution, they have revealed that Mr. Lockett was killed using an invasive and painful method — an IV line in his groin,” Cohen said in a statement. “The timeline “¦ strongly indicates that the femoral IV was never properly inserted, and the drugs were injected into Mr. Lockett’s flesh, rather than his veins.”
The timeline also says that Lockett was Tasered by guards in the early morning hours before his evening execution on Tuesday for failing to comply with orders to undergo medical X-rays. Lockett also cut his right arm, a wound for which he was treated.
In addition to a request to indefinitely stay executions, Patton’s letter asks for an external investigation into the circumstances of Lockett’s death.
“While I have complete confidence in the abilities of my inspector general and his staff, I believe the report will be perceived as more credible if conducted by an external entity,” he said.
On Wednesday, Fallin, a Republican, said she would halt executions until the state’s public-safety commissioner could conduct an investigation into Oklahoma’s execution protocols and Lockett’s death. Death-penalty opponents have attacked that decision as not truly independent because it will still come from Fallin’s administration.
The White House said Wednesday that Lockett’s death “fell short” of humane standards that should be expected in all executions.
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