The Norman Transcript

Crime/Courts

May 1, 2014

State governor orders Okla. Department of Public Safety to investigate failed execution

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin ordered a thorough review Wednesday of the botched lethal drug execution of a convicted murderer that left him writhing and grunting.

But the governor said executions will continue in Oklahoma, and the review by the state Department of Public Safety is to determine if medical and other protocols were followed in the failed execution of Clayton D. Lockett.

Lockett, 38, was the first of two planned executions Tuesday night at the state prison in McAlester. Twenty minutes into the drug injection procedure, he began to lift his body from the gurney and grunt, according to gallery witnesses.

At that point, the procedure was stopped, the blinds drawn on the death chamber, and witnesses later told Lockett died shortly afterward of a massive heart attack.

Fallin promptly ordered a two-week stay for the execution of the second inmate, Charles F. Warner, who was scheduled to be put to death two hours after Lockett.

She said Warner would be executed on May 13 unless the review and assessment of Lockett’s death were not completed by then. There are another 50 convicts on death row in Oklahoma awaiting execution.

“His fellow Oklahomans have sentenced him to death,” Fallin said in brief remarks to a room full of media. “We expect the sentence to be carried out as required by law.”

Lockett’s bungled execution stoked the national debate over capital punishment, and whether lethal injections violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Even the White House weighed in, with presidential press secretary Jay Carney criticizing the execution.

“We have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely,” said Carney. “I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.”

Lockett was administered three drugs: midazolam, a sedative to cause unconsciousness; vecuronium to relax the body’s muscles, and potassium chloride to stop the heart from beating.

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