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May 9, 2014

Execution ritual cloaked in secrecy

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA —

“You can have a drug that is essentially a different drug when it hits your bloodstream,” he said. “You can have a lot of bizarre things happen.”

 

Execution stalled

 

Such questions of transparency stalled Lockett's execution for months, as well as that of Charles Warner, who had been scheduled to die the same night in a rare, double execution. Lawyers for both fought to learn the supplier of a drug — the benzodiazepine called midazolam — the state planned to use in its three-drug lethal injection cocktail for the first time.

Gov. Mary Fallin eventually ordered the executions to proceed.

Lockett's did not go as expected. A phlebotomist was unable to find a viable vein for the IV used to administer the lethal drugs anywhere but in Lockett's groin, according to a description later released by the Department of Corrections.

Prison officials said the vein collapsed during the execution. Though the midazolam was supposed to render Lockett unconscious, witnesses described him as writhing, grimacing and grunting in apparent pain before the procedure was stopped.

Lockett died more than 40 minutes after the first drugs were injected. His body has since been sent to Dallas for an autopsy.

Warner has since been granted a 180-day stay of execution.

Given the investigation into the Lockett's execution by the state Department of Public Safety, prison officials have refused to further discuss what happened April 29.

Lopez, who spent nearly two decades as a guard in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, including two on death row, said he's noticed that condemned prisoners, including Lockett, seem to display "a lot more showmanship" than those who proceeded them.

“Generally, as a rule back when I was there, inmates took pride in walking into the death chamber like a man,” he said. “They didn’t fight.”

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