Inmate dies after execution halted

New drug mix tried; procedure goes awry

McALESTER, Okla. – A botched execution using a disputed 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 combination was administered. Three minutes later, though, he began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, 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, although it didn’t save Lockett.

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

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

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

Lockett’s botched execution is sure to fuel the debate over the death penalty in the U.S., where several states have had to scramble to find new sources of execution drugs because drugmakers that oppose capital punishment – many based in Europe – stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Several states have gone to court to shield the identities of the new sources of their execution drugs. Missouri and Texas, like Oklahoma, have both refused to reveal their sources, but both of those states have already successfully carried out executions with their new supplies.

States have been scrambling for drugs after drugmakers – many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty – stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

A four-time felon, Lockett, 38, 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.


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