Lethal injection, not heart attack, killed Oklahoma inmate, autopsy shows

An independent autopsy authorized by Gov. Mary Fallin determined Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Derrell Lockett actually died as a result of lethal injection after all and not a heart attack as officials first reported.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: August 28, 2014 at 9:27 pm •  Published: August 28, 2014
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An independent autopsy authorized by the governor determined that an Oklahoma death row inmate actually died as a result of lethal injection after all and not a heart attack as officials first reported.

“It is our opinion that Clayton Derrell Lockett, a 38-year-old black male, died as the result of judicial execution by lethal injection,” states the report, which was released Thursday by the Oklahoma Public Safety Department.

The murderer’s botched April 29 execution has attracted both national and international attention and renewed the decades-old debate over the death penalty.

In the days after the execution, officials from the state Corrections Department said Lockett was pronounced dead of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the lethal injection began.

The autopsy, which was conducted by the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, found more than a dozen IV puncture marks on areas of Lockett’s foot, wrists, upper arms, chest and neck.

The autopsy also found lacerations on Lockett’s arms, which line up with reports from the state Corrections Department that Lockett cut himself with a razor moments before his execution. Correctional officers also shocked Lockett in the hours before his execution after he refused to cooperate. The autopsy found no stun-gun-type marks on his body.

Oklahoma used three drugs in Lockett’s execution: the sedative midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Toxicology reports show all three drugs made it into his body.

The autopsy report provides no new insights on why Lockett took so long to die.

With the release of the autopsy report, a state investigation into Lockett’s execution is now moving into its final stages, said Michael Thompson, commissioner of the state Public Safety Department.

“Our investigative team has concluded well over one hundred interviews, collected evidence, reviewed reports and upon receipt of the autopsy report, will move into the final phase of completing a summary report of the findings,” Thompson wrote in a news release.

The investigation was initiated through an executive order by Gov. Mary Fallin. The governor called for an independent investigation, and therefore the autopsy was performed out of state.

What is not disputed about Lockett’s execution is that the state’s execution team made several attempts to find a viable vein for the procedure, finally inserting the line in the femoral vein in the inmate’s groin. Lockett writhed, groaned, shuddered and mumbled several minutes into the procedure before the blinds were closed and media members were escorted out of the death chamber.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch he went on to cover the Oklahoma Senate for eCapitol before joining the...
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