Report highlights chaotic scenes at botched US execution
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Oklahoma prison officials released a report Thursday giving an account of Clayton Lockett’s botched execution earlier this week, in which it emerged that officials searched for a vein for 51 minutes and that Lockett was Tasered on his last morning.
Lockett, 38, died of an apparent heart attack 10 minutes after prisons director Robert Patton halted the execution Tuesday night.
In the report, Patton said that Lockett (photo, left) had an intravenous tap placed at his groin because suitable veins couldn’t be found elsewhere. 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.
Lockett’s vein collapsed, and Patton said he did not have another viable one, adding that the state didn’t have another dose of the drugs available.
The IV line was covered by a sheet because it had been placed at Lockett’s groin, Patton said. The dislodged line wasn’t discovered until 21 minutes after the execution began and all of the execution drugs had been injected into the line.
“The drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both,” Patton wrote. “The director asked the following question, ‘Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?’ The doctor responded, ‘No.””
After the doctor attending the execution found a faint heartbeat, Patton ordered the execution stopped. Lockett died anyway.
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.
Journalists in the viewing gallery at the prison saw that for three minutes Lockett writhed, groaned, attempted to lift himself off the gurney and tried to speak, despite a doctor having declared him unconscious.
Lockett Tasered before execution
The statement also indicated that on his last morning, Lockett fought with guards who attempted to remove him from his cell and he was shocked with a stun gun. After being taken to a prison infirmary, a self-inflicted cut was found on Lockett’s arm that was determined not to require stitches. The report also notes that Lockett refused food at breakfast and lunch.
Madeline Cohen, an attorney for inmate Charles Warner (photo, right), 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 specialised medical training and expertise.”
Warner’s execution was initially rescheduled for May 13. Patton called Thursday for an indefinite stay, something Cohen said she agreed was necessary.
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.
Change of procedures
“If it does require more time, then yes, I think they should take more time,” Fallin said. “We need to get it right.”
If 60 days is not 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 also said it was wrong to leave “all responsibility and decision-making” to the warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, where executions are carried out.
“Those decisions should rest on upper management and ultimately on the Director of Corrections,” Patton wrote.
The director also said the state should conduct a full review of execution procedures, ensure Oklahoma “adopts proven standards” and give staff “extensive training” once new protocols are written.
Patton added that the state should allow for an external review of what went wrong during Lockett’s execution. “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.
Fallin had announced similar steps Wednesday.
Autopsy results on Lockett are pending.
A four-time felon, Lockett 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.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)