Clayton Lockett was seen breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow during execution in Oklahoma
AP2:02AM BST 30 Apr 2014 Edited by Bonnie Malkin
Executions have been halted in Oklahoma after a death row inmate died in apparent pain following a botched lethal injection.
Robert Patton, the head of the state Department of Corrections, said inmate Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, died on Tuesday of a heart attack following the administration of a new, untested three-drug protocol that included a sedative, an anaesthetic and a lethal dose of potassium chloride.
The execution began at 6:23pm when officials began administering the first of the three drugs, and a doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33pm.
However, about three minutes later, Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth, straining to lift his head off the pillow and calling out. After about three minutes, a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering Lockett to examine the injection site. After that, an official who was inside the death chamber lowered the blinds, preventing those in the viewing room from seeing what was happening.
Mr Patton then made a series of phone calls before calling a halt to the execution, however Lockett died shortly later.
OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS/AP PHOTO.
Prisons spokesman Jerry Massie said Lockett died of a “massive heart attack” at 7:06 pm after receiving all three drugs and cited “vein failure” as the reason the injection didn’t work properly.
Even though he was administered the injection, “the drugs didn’t go into the system,” the spokesman added.
Mr Patton later issued a 14-day postponement in the execution of inmate Charles Warner, who had also been scheduled to die on Tuesday, two hours after Lockett was put to death.
“It was extremely difficult to watch,” Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, said afterward. He also questioned the amount of the sedative midazolam that was given to Lockett, saying he thought it was “an overdose quantity”. It was the first time Oklahoma administered midazolam as the first drug in its execution drug combination.
“They should have anticipated possible problems with an untried execution protocol. Obviously the whole thing was gummed up and botched from beginning to end. Halting the execution obviously did Lockett no good,” Mr Autry said.
He also was sceptical of the department’s determination that Lockett’s vein failed.
“I’m not a medical professional, but Mr Lockett was not someone who had compromised veins. He was in very good shape. He had large arms and very prominent veins,” he said.
A four-time felon, Lockett, 38, was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999 after Neiman and a friend arrived at a home the men were robbing.
Warner had been scheduled to be put to death 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.
Lockett and Warner had sued the state for refusing to disclose details about the execution drugs, including where Oklahoma obtained them.
The case, filed as a civil matter, placed Oklahoma’s two highest courts at odds and prompted calls for the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices after the court last week issued a rare stay of execution. The high court later dissolved its stay and dismissed the inmates’ claim that they were entitled to know the source of the drugs.
By then, Gov. Mary Fallin had weighed into the matter by issuing a stay of execution of her own – a one-week delay in Lockett’s execution that resulted in both men being scheduled to die on the same day.