“If we are to have executions at all, they must not be conducted like hastily thrown together human science experiments.”
On Tuesday evening, two executions were scheduled to take place in McAlester, Oklahoma: Clayton D. Lockett, who was convicted in 1999 of shooting a teenage girl and watching as two accomplices buried her alive, and Charles F. Warner, who was convicted in 1997 of raping and murdering a toddler.
During the first procedure, the administrating doctor announced that “the line has blown” and the drugs were no longer flowing into Lockett’s vein. This came after Lockett violently convulsed and tried to lift his head, although the doctor declared him unconscious just 14 minutes earlier.
Prison officials immediately halted the execution, but Lockett continued to convulse and twitch until he died from a heart attack 30 minutes later.
Witnesses, who were quickly shielded from the scene when officials pulled a curtain after the mistake, described it as chaotic and unsettling.
“This was botched, and it was difficult to watch,” said David Autry, one of Mr. Lockett’s lawyers.
Dean Sanderford, another lawyer for Mr. Lockett, said, “It looked like torture.”
Warner, the second inmate, was granted a 14-day stay of execution while governor Mary Fallin calls for a “full review” of the state’s execution procedures.
“Last night’s botched execution was nothing less than state-sanctioned torture,” said Antonio Ginatta, U.S. advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
Governor Fallin still stands by her state’s decision.
“I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment to those who commit heinous crimes against their fellow men and women,” she said. “However, I also believe the state needs to be certain of its protocols and its procedures for executions and that they work.”
But questions still remain concerning the 3-drug cocktail used in Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedure. Lawyers for both Lockett and Warner have previously contended that the serum goes against the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Recently, after running out of its usual lethal injection drug, Oklahoma had a new batch sourced from a pharmacy, declining to give its name. This isn’t he first time an execution was botched with this new combination, either. At the first of the year in Ohio, the first inmate injected with this particular serum appeared to suffocate to death.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear any cases from states regarding the legality of lethal injection drugs from secret sources, the New York Times states that Tuesday’s Oklahoma case could indeed help get the controversial issue before the court.
Governor Fallin has announced that she will extend Warner’s 14-day stay of execution if the independent review into the case is not completed by that time.
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