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Botched execution: Gov. Fallin labels investigation 'independent' though it's led by state official present at lethal injection

Botched execution: Man to lead “independent” investigation is Oklahoma state official who was acting in an official capacity at the lethal injection that went bad.
by Rick Green Published: May 2, 2014
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photo - Gov. Mary Fallin. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman
Gov. Mary Fallin. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman

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.

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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