Thu, May 01, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Convict dies after execution halted

AP, McALESTER, Oklahoma

An execution that used a new drug combination left an Oklahoma inmate writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney on Tuesday, leading prison officials to halt the proceedings before the inmate’s eventual death from a heart attack.

Clayton Lockett, 38, was declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of the state’s new three-drug lethal injection combination was administered. Three minutes later, though, he began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.

The blinds were eventually lowered to prevent those in the viewing gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber, and the state’s top prison official eventually called a halt to the proceedings. Lockett died of a heart attack a short time later, the US Department of Corrections said.

“It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched,” said Lockett’s attorney, David Autry.

Tuesday was the first time Oklahoma used the drug midazolam as the first element in its execution drug combination.

“They should have anticipated possible problems with an untried execution protocol,” Autry said. “Obviously the whole thing was gummed up and botched from beginning to end. Halting the execution obviously did Lockett no good.”

Republican Govenor Mary Fallin ordered a 14-day stay of execution for an inmate who was scheduled to die two hours after Lockett, Charles Warner. She also ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to conduct a “full review of Oklahoma’s execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening’s execution.”

Department director Robert Patton halted Lockett’s execution about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered. He later said there had been vein failure.

The execution began at 6:23pm, when officials began administering the first drug, the sedative midazolam. A doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33pm.

Once an inmate is declared unconscious, the state’s execution protocol calls for the second drug, a paralytic, to be administered. The third drug in the protocol is potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Patton said the second and third drugs were being administered when a problem was noticed and it is unclear how much of the drugs made it into the inmate’s system.

Lockett began writhing at 6:36pm. At 6:39pm, a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering the inmate to examine the injection site.

After an official lowered the blinds, Patton made a series of telephone calls before calling a halt to the execution.

Lockett was declared dead at 7:06pm.

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.

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.

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