Prison officers shocked an uncooperative Clayton Lockett with a Taser and found a self-inflicted cut on his arm in the hours before he was brought to the execution chamber, where medical staff had trouble finding a viable place to start an intravenous line to deliver deadly drugs, according to a timeline of the botched lethal injection.
After 51 minutes of trying to find a spot to insert the line in his arms, legs and feet, it was finally placed in his groin, and he was covered by a sheet “to prevent witness viewing of the groin area,” the timeline said.
“Obviously, they didn’t want to show that,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a brief news conference Thursday to discuss the timeline sent to her by Corrections Department Director Robert Patton.
She said it was too early to draw conclusions about Tuesday night’s events.
“That is why I asked for a review,” Fallin said. “We don’t know all the answers.”
The problems starting the line and its location hidden under a sheet may prove important in an investigation into why the execution went bad. A physician present at all executions usually is able to easily look at the intravenous lines flowing into exposed arms of the person receiving a lethal injection.
Lockett writhed, grimaced and strained to move his head after the drugs were administered — and at a time when he was supposed to already be unconscious. The execution was called off, but he ended up dying, apparently of a heart attack, 43 minutes after the lethal injection began.
The timeline indicates that the first drug in a three-drug combination was administered at 6:23 p.m. At 6:42 p.m. the shades were lowered in the execution chamber, and two minutes later a doctor looked under the sheet and found the vein taking the deadly drugs had collapsed and “the drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both,” the timeline said.
“The warden immediately contacted the director by phone ...,” the timeline said. “The director asked, ‘Is another vein available, and if so, are there enough drugs remaining?’ The doctor responded, ‘no’ to both questions.”
Patton called off the execution at 6:56 p.m., and a doctor pronounced Lockett dead at 7:06 p.m.
Stay given in other case
Fallin gave a two-week stay of execution to Charles Warner, who was supposed to be executed the same night.
Fallin said the stay will remain in effect until an investigation, which is being led by Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, is completed. She said she has the authority to extend the stay for 60 days but is waiting to see how long the investigation takes before she makes a decision.
Beyond 60 days, the attorney general would have to seek a longer stay from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Diane Clay, spokeswoman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said that, if necessary, he would seek an extension.
Inquiry to continue
The Taser incident occurred when Lockett refused to leave his cell early in the morning for an X-ray that is part of standard procedure before an execution. The cut on his arm did not require stitches.
At the end of the timeline, Patton makes a recommendation that the stay be made indefinite while an investigation of the execution continues. He also recommends changes to execution protocol.
“The current protocol puts all responsibility and decision-making on the warden at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary,” Patton said. “Those decisions should rest on upper management and ultimately on the director of corrections.”
Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, said no executions should be done in the state until a “truly independent” investigation is conducted.
“Director Patton’s memo adds a gruesome new detail about the extent of how barbaric Mr. Lockett’s execution was, revealing for the first time that the drugs were administered through a vein in Mr. Lockett's groin,” Cohen said.
“Placing such a femoral IV line requires highly specialized medical training and expertise.”
Dean Sanderford, Lockett’s attorney, said putting the line in through the groin “adds a whole other layer of additional risk in addition to the drugs and secrecy that we didn’t even know about until today, plus the fact that they Tased him earlier in the morning.”
He said Lockett was a healthy, muscular, 38-year-old man, so it’s not clear why a vein couldn’t be found in the arms. It is standard to put an intravenous line into each arm.
Sanderford said that since no stitches were needed to close Lockett’s self-inflicted cut, it’s doubtful blood loss would have made his veins inaccessible. He also said that although Lockett refused his last meal, he wasn’t on a hunger strike.
The timeline does not indicate what Lockett used to cut himself.
He has a long history of fashioning weapons while incarcerated in county jail and state prison and was a disruptive inmate, according to a report compiled by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office for the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Those weapons included saw blades, sharpened wires, shanks made from metal window frames he destroyed, a 3-foot aluminum walking cane sharpened to a point, and an 11-inch plastic knife sharpened to a point.
Disruptive incidents listed included flooding a day room, throwing feces and urine on a correctional officer, and threatening the lives of correctional officers.
A four-time felon, Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999. Neiman and a friend had interrupted the men as they robbed a home.
Warner had been scheduled to be executed two hours later, in what would have been the first time the state held two executions in one day since 1937. The 46-year-old was convicted of raping and killing his live-in girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997.
CONTRIBUTING: Staff Writers Nolan Clay and
Graham Lee Brewer