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April 30, 2014

DA weighs in on lethal injection issue

CHICKASHA —

With the flames of the capital punishment argument perpetually stoked, the recent "botched" execution of an Oklahoma inmate brought that to a fire.

A stay on executions and an investigation into what went wrong when Clayton Lockett received a new method of lethal injection for his 1999 murder conviction. Instead of what was supposed to be a more sedated process, Lockett reportedly convulsed, and even attempted to speak, before authorities carrying out the execution shut the curtain on reporters and witnesses. It was later announced he had died of apparent cardiac arrest.

The state Medical Examiner will now begin an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, part of Gov. Mary Fallin's review of Lockett's execution. 

It presents questions over the future of capital punishment in the state and how to handle such a sensitive issue. Jason Hicks, Grady County district attorney, said the current atmosphere will not affect the way his office handles such cases.

"I will continue to file a bill of particulars and seek the death penalty in the appropriate cases," Hicks said. "If the facts warrant death, then the jury will hand that out. It won't change what we do."

Among the contentious factors in the case of Lockett and Charles Warner, who faces execution for the murder of an 11-year-old, is what defense attorneys and civil liberties groups say is a lack of transparency in the process. Requests for the name of the company producing the new assortment of drugs for lethal injections went unfulfilled, and courts have refused to disseminate information on the contents of new drugs to inmates set to receive them.

"In Oklahoma’s haste to conduct a science experiment on two men behind a veil of secrecy, our state has disgraced itself before the nation and world," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. "The greatest power any government has over an individual is to take that person’s life. More than any other power, the exercise of the power to kill must be accompanied by due process and transparency. 

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