Clayton Lockett Tasered on morning of botched execution, report urging changes to Oklahoma's death penalty procedures reveals
Prisons chief Robert Patton said the death row inmate took 43 minutes to die because the lethal drugs were injected into a vein in his groin that collapsed
The Oklahoma death row inmate, whose botched execution has prompted renewed criticism of America’s death penalty, was Tasered on the day that he died, according to a timeline of events released by the state’s prison’s chief on Thursday.
Robert Patton, Department of Corrections director, sent a letter to Governor Mary Fallin, which said that some of the lethal drugs used in the execution never made it into Clayton Lockett’s system because a vein in his groin that had collapsed wasn’t noticed until 21 minutes after the process was started.
Lockett, who was condemned to death for the brutal murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in 1999, convulsed on the execution table after a doctor declared him unconscious. Prison officials halted the procedure on Tuesday evening, but he died 43 minutes after the protocol had begun from what state officials said was a heart attack.
In his report Mr Patton urged changes to the state’s execution procedures and called for an external review of what went wrong.
He detailed how medical officials spent nearly an hour trying to find a vein in Lockett’s arms, legs and neck before finally inserting an IV into his groin. But when a doctor lifted a sheet covering the inmate, it was found that the line had been dislodged from the vein; however, all of the execution drugs had already been injected and there wasn’t another suitable vein, the report noted.
Mr Patton wrote: “The drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both. The director asked the following question, ‘Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?’ The doctor responded, ‘No’.”
Mr Patton then halted the execution, but Lockett was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.
The report also outlined chaotic scenes in the lead-up to the execution. Earlier that day, Lockett had been Tasered by members of The Correctional Emergency Response (CERT) team after he fought with guards and refused to be restrained for medical X-rays carried out as part of the execution procedure.
After being taken to the prison’s medical room, Lockett was also found to have a self-inflicted laceration on his right arm; he received medical treatment but stitches were not needed.
Lockett refused to meet with his lawyers or eat in the hours prior to his death and at 5.19pm he was finally taken into the execution chamber; the IV was not inserted until 6.18pm and the execution commenced at 6.23pm.
Typically inmates die in about 10 minutes. Mr Patton stopped the execution at 6.56 pm, but 10 minutes later Lockett apparently suffered a heart attack. Autopsy results are pending.
Oklahoma's execution rules call for medical personnel to immediately give emergency aid if a stay is granted while the lethal drugs are being administered, but it's not clear if that happened. The report does not say what occurred from when Patton called off the execution at 6.56pm to Lockett being pronounced dead at 7.06pm.
Madeline Cohen, an attorney for inmate Charles Warner, who had been scheduled to be executed two hours after Lockett, said Oklahoma was revealing information about the events “in a chaotic manner”.
“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.
“Placing such a femoral IV line requires highly specialized medical training and expertise.”
Inserting IVs into the groin area — the upper thigh or pelvic region — is often done for trauma patients and in experienced hands can be straightforward, but injecting in the femoral vein can be tricky because it's not as visible as arm veins and lies next to the femoral artery, said Dr. Jonathan Weisbuch, a physician in Phoenix.
Warner's execution was initially rescheduled for 13 May. Patton called Thursday for an indefinite stay, something Cohen said she agreed was necessary.
Ms Fallin, who has ordered one of her Cabinet members to investigate the botched execution, said Thursday she was willing to issue a 60-day stay for Warner, the longest allowed under state law, if needed to complete the inquiry.
“If it does require more time, then yes, I think they should take more time. We need to get it right.”
If 60 days isn't adequate, Oklahoma's attorney general said he would request an additional stay from the courts to ensure no executions are carried out until the review is complete.
In his recommendations to the governor, Patton said the state should place more decision-making power with the director instead of the prison warden, conduct a full review of execution procedures and ensure Oklahoma “adopts proven standards”. He also said staff should be given "extensive training" once new protocols are written.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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