Last night the state of Oklahoma added to America’s long history of botched executions when it attempted to execute Clayton Derrell Lockett by lethal injection. At 6.23 p.m., a doctor administered the first drug, which corrections officials identified as the sedative midazolam. What followed was an agonizing spectacle that ended when Lockett died at 7.06 p.m.—43 minutes after the drugs began to flow.
Lockett was pronounced unconscious 10 minutes into the procedure and officials started to administer the second and third drugs: a paralytic intended to prevent respiration and potassium chloride to stop his heart.
Soon after doing so, it became clear that the execution was not going according to plan. Lockett began to convulse violently, his head and chest rising up off the gurney multiple times as he called out, “Oh, man.” At this point, prison officials pulled a curtain in front of the witnesses, and Corrections Department Director Robert Patton announced that he was “stopping the execution” after a “vein failure.” Lockett died minutes later of an apparent heart attack.
The entire execution was cloaked in secrecy. Not only did corrections officials conceal Lockett’s final minutes from the assembled witnesses, but also the deadly chemicals themselves were of unknown provenance. With many pharmaceutical companies refusing to supply drugs for executions, Oklahoma and other states have turned to lightly regulated compounding pharmacies.
In a last-ditch effort to avoid execution, Lockett and Charles Warner, whose execution was also originally set for yesterday, sued to discover the origin of the drugs to be used in their executions. Oklahoma’s Supreme Court initially ruled that the executions should be stayed to avoid a miscarriage of justice, but Governor Mary Fallin said the court had overreached its powers and ordered the executions to go ahead.
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