Gov. Mary Fallin has labeled the probe into the botched execution of Clayton Lockett an “independent investigation” but she is taking criticism from those who point out that the man leading the inquiry is her Cabinet secretary and that he was at the lethal injection in an official capacity.
“I don’t think it’s an independent investigation,” Dean Sanderford, Lockett’s attorney, said Friday. “I don’t think that anybody who works for an executive agency for the governor is independent.
“It should be conducted by someone completely outside state government. Using someone within the government, they are just trying to do a whitewash.”
Lockett writhed, grimaced and strained when he was supposed to be unconscious during the Tuesday execution, which was called off after it was discovered a vein had collapsed while the deadly drugs were supposed to be delivered to it through an intravenous line. He ended up dying of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.
The state Corrections Department conducted the execution process at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Fallin ordered the investigation to be led by state Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson. She also ordered that an autopsy of Lockett be done by a pathologist at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science in Dallas. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol falls under Thompson’s department, and patrol investigators will conduct the investigation.
In comments Thursday, Fallin said the investigation is independent because it is being conducted through the Department of Public Safety, not the Corrections Department.
“It is an independent person outside the Department of Corrections, which we think is appropriate,” she said. “It is a state matter. It is a person that is over the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. It is a law enforcement person, so we do consider it to be outside of my office, outside the Department of Corrections.”
Thompson, Fallin’s Cabinet secretary of safety and security, formerly served as a commander in the highway patrol and once worked for the Corrections Department.
Sanderford said the fact that Thompson used to work for the same department he will be investigating “makes it worse.”
This week, representatives of American Civil Liberties Union Oklahoma and Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, also expressed concerns about state officials being involved in the investigation and called for an investigation not tied to the state.
For his part, Thompson said he will do a thorough examination.
“I have assigned an experienced team to review every aspect of this event,” he said. “I fully understand and appreciate the interest in this matter, but respectfully ask for patience and cooperation from everyone in order to maintain the integrity of this critically important investigation.”