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May 9, 2014

Execution ritual cloaked in secrecy

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA —

Though he never witnessed an execution, Lopez said there were about a half-dozen during his two-year assignment. He helped work some of those from the prison’s control room.

Lockett — who had been sentenced to die for his role for a kidnapping, rape and murder in June 1999 — started his last day fighting, prompting prison officials to subdue him with a Taser, according to the Department of Corrections statement. He had cut his arm and refused all food, including his last meal.

Lopez said such “showmanship” riles death penalty opponents — especially outside Oklahoma — who question the validity of the state's procedure.

“I mean, they have the power to really swing the public over here,” he said. “I mean, everybody in Oklahoma says, ‘Yeah, he got what he deserved. Who cares if he lived 45 minutes?’ I haven’t heard one person say, ‘Oh, poor inmate. Oh, poor murdering dog.’”

 

A secret process

 

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary changes on the day of an execution, said Lopez, who described how guards lock down death row so there's no opportunity for other inmates to protest.

As the condemned walks toward the execution chamber, Lopez said it’s not unusual for other inmates to kick their doors — a show of respect.

Many aspects of what happens are detailed in more than 30 pages of procedure released by the Department of Corrections.

Lockett, for instance, would have received a full-body X-ray to search for hidden contraband, according to the procedure. He would have received two sets of clothing including shorts, pants, shirts, socks and shoes — as well as a mattress, sheets and blanket — after he was led to a holding cell about 10 feet from the execution chamber.

He was to be guarded at all times by at least three officers, none of whom would participate in the execution. He was not allowed personal property other than religious materials, family photos and legal materials. Per policy, he would have been dressed in scrubs and tennis shoes before being restrained on the gurney and prepared for the lethal injection.

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