Early on the morning of Clayton D. Lockett’s scheduled execution, he defied prison officers seeking to shackle him for the required walk to get X-rays. So they shocked him with a Taser, Oklahoma’s chief of corrections stated in an account released Thursday of Mr. Lockett’s final day, before his execution went awry.
Once Mr. Lockett was in an examining room, the staff discovered that he had slashed his own arm; a physician assistant determined that sutures would not be needed.Hours later on that Tuesday, as his 6 p.m. time for lethal injection approached, Mr. Lockett lay strapped on a gurney in the execution chamber.Finding a suitable vein and placing an IV line took 51 minutes. A medical technician searched both of his arms, both of his legs and both of his feet for a vein into which to insert the needle, but “no viable point of entry was located,” reported the corrections chief, Robert Patton, in a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin that her office released. A doctor, the letter said, “went to the groin area.”
A catheter was inserted into Mr. Lockett’s groin, and officials placed a sheet over him for privacy. The account did not make clear who inserted the catheter.The Department of Corrections provided the newly detailed account as it reels from questions about its execution procedures and training of personnel as well as its secret sources of lethal drugs.
Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, said that the prison’s initial account that the vein had collapsed or blown was almost certainly incorrect.“The femoral vein is a big vessel,” Dr. Zivot said. Finding the vein, however, can be tricky. The vein is not visible from the surface, and is near a major artery and nerves. “You can’t feel it, you can’t see it,” he said.
Without special expertise, Dr. Zivot said, the failure was not surprising.
Legal experts on the death penalty said they were surprised, and even shocked, by several things revealed in the new letter. “I’ve never heard of a case of an inmate being Tasered before being executed,” said Deborah Denno, an expert on execution at Fordham Law School and a death penalty opponent.
Long term, we should get rid of injection and go back to gas, possibly carbon monoxide.
UPDATE: Obama Orders Justice Department Review of Execution Procedures:
President Obama declared this week’s botched execution in Oklahoma “deeply disturbing” and directed the attorney general on Friday to review how the death penalty is applied in the United States at a time when it has become increasingly debated.
The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., whom he has now tasked to review the matter, though, has been an open opponent of capital punishment. During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Holder said he disagreed with the death penalty personally but would enforce the law. He has approved seeking it in fewer than 5 percent of cases where it was eligible, according to the Justice Department, but did sign off on pursuing death sentences in cases such as that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber.Mr. Holder has expressed concern about the disparity of those sitting on death row, and those who know him said he would be eager to have a chance to conduct a broader review of the penalty.