McALESTER — State Corrections Department officials stopped the execution of convicted killer Clayton Derrell Lockett on Tuesday after a botched lethal injection that caused Lockett’s body to violently convulse. He died of a heart attack about 40 minutes later.
The apparent failure of the execution is likely to fuel more debate about the new three-drug cocktail used, and the ability of states to administer lethal injections that meet the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that the punishment be neither cruel nor unusual.
After Lockett began convulsing, officials closed the curtains to the death chamber and Corrections Department Director Robert Patton informed witnesses he was halting the execution. Witnesses were then escorted out of the room, left wondering whether Lockett had actually been put to death.
The lethal injection was one of two set for Tuesday evening. Charles Frederick Warner was scheduled to be executed at 8 p.m., but after the first procedure, Gov. Mary Fallin postponed Warner’s execution for 14 days to determine what happened.
The execution, which was supposed to start at 6, began at 6:23 p.m. The three-drug cocktail was then administered to Lockett, who had no last words. Lockett was declared unconscious 10 minutes into the process but he mumbled at three separate moments. The first two were inaudible, however the third time he said the word “man.”
Sixteen minutes into the procedure, Lockett grimaced and tensed his body several times over a three-minute period, his head rising from the gurney and his feet kicking several times. A medical professional lifted the sheet covering Lockett’s body to check the vein in his right arm just before officials closed the curtains in the execution chamber and shielded witnesses from what was happening.
He was declared dead at 7:06 p.m. His death was not witnessed by the media.
Patton later announced Lockett had suffered a “blown vein” and had died of a heart attack. He said all three execution drugs had been administered, but “the drugs were not having the effect.”
Concerns about drugs
Madeline Cohen, a lawyer representing Warner, expressed deep concern over Tuesday’s execution.
“I was in the room with Mr. Warner’s family, so I could not see Clayton Lockett being tortured to death,” Cohen said.
“From our perspective, there should be no further executions in Oklahoma until a full autopsy has been done on Mr. Lockett by an independent pathologist and there has to be full transparency.”
Tuesday night, Fallin postponed Warner’s execution until May 13, “to allow the Corrections Department to evaluate the current execution protocol and to allow exhaustion of all possible legal remedies.”
The two death penalty cases have been subject to much legal wrangling and court action in the past several weeks.
Lockett was scheduled to be executed April 22, but his execution, along with Warner’s, was stayed by the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court later dissolved its stay after an executive order from Fallin called the ruling an overreach.
The inmates initially had their executions delayed after a district judge agreed with their attorneys that a law allowing the state to keep secret its source of lethal injection drugs was unconstitutional. The inmates sued the state in January over a law allowing the state to keep its source of lethal injection drugs secret. Lawyers for the inmates argued without validating the purity of the compounded drugs likely to be used in the lethal injections, their clients had no way of knowing whether or not their civil rights would be violated.
Cohen said Lockett’s execution validated worry over the never-before-used drugs.
“My concerns are certainly are a lot less uncertain than they were a day ago,” Cohen said. “I have to say that I did not want to be validated in this way. It feels very awful.”
CONTRIBUTING: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, TULSA WORLD STAFF
Editor's note: Following is previous NewsOK coverage of the legal battles over the state's lethal injection procedure, as well as the crimes, convictions and appeals of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner.
Clayton Derrell Lockett
Charles Frederick Warner
Oklahoma’s execution protocol
- 50 mg/10 ml midazolam in each arm
- saline flush
- 20 mg/20cc vecuronium bromide in each arm
- saline flush
- Potassium chloride 100 meq/50cc in each arm
“Prior to the administration of vecuronium bromide or a comparable non-depolarizing neuromuscular blocking agent, the physician present in the Execution Room will monitor the condemned offender’s level of consciousness through whatever means the physician believes are appropriate, to ensure that the condemned is sufficiently unconscious prior to the administration of the blocking agent. The physician may monitor the condemned offender with an EKG monitor and/or stethoscope. The blocking agent will NOT be administered until at least 5 minutes after the beginning of the administration of the midazolam.”
Source: Department of Corrections protocol manual
Clayton Derrell Lockett
Age at time of crime: 23
Convicted: Oct. 5, 2000, in Noble County of first-degree murder
Case background: Lockett was convicted in the murder of Stephanie Neiman, 19, of Perry. Neiman’s friend had asked Neiman to drive to a friend’s house to ask if he would like to attend a party. Neiman waited in the truck while the third victim went into the house. Once inside, the third victim found her friend, Bobby Bornt, severely beaten and bound. The third victim was attacked by Clayton Lockett before being forced to coax Neiman inside the home. All three were beaten before Lockett and his accomplices, Alfonzo Lockett and Shawn Mathis, loaded the three victims into two pickups and drove them to a rural Kay County road. Lockett ordered Mathis to dig a grave while Neiman watched. He took Neiman at gunpoint to a ditch and shot her with a shotgun. When the shotgun jammed, he returned to the truck to fix it and then shot Neiman a second time as she pleaded for mercy. While Neiman was still alive, Lockett ordered his accomplice to bury her. He later described to investigators how Stephanie was still alive and choking on the dirt as they buried her alive.
Charles Frederick Warner
Age at time of crime: 30
Convicted: July 23, 2000, in Oklahoma County of first-degree murder
Case background: Warner was convicted in the rape and murder of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter, Adrianna Waller, on Aug. 22, 1987. Adrianna’s mother, Shonda Waller, had left her daughter and three other children with Warner. When she returned, she found Adrianna unresponsive. The girl was pronounced dead at a hospital with multiple serious injuries. Warner’s son testified that he saw his father violently shake Adrianna because he didn’t like her crying.