Gov. Mary Fallin should change course and ask that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation rather than Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson conduct a previously announced investigation into the bungled execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman said Thursday.
Dorman became the latest of several people to question the independence of Thompson, noting Thompson serves at the discretion of Gov. Fallin as her appointed Cabinet Secretary of Safety and Security. Independence questions also arise because Thompson previously worked for the state Corrections Department and personally witnessed Lockett’s execution, Dorman said.
“I urge you to reconsider your appointment of a member of your Cabinet to investigate this critical issue to ensure that the investigation is not tainted as being biased,” Dorman said.
“We cannot be the laughingstock of the United States,” Dorman said. “With the politics that are in play this year and the elections, we need to have the utmost confidence that the process is investigated and that we come to the right conclusion.”
Alex Weintz, the governor’s communications director, called Dorman’s suggestion “both late and politically motivated.”
“This review process has already started,” Weintz said. “The physical autopsy has already been completed and Mr. Lockett’s body has been returned to Oklahoma. Rep. Dorman is asking the governor to disrupt an ongoing review.”
Weintz also questioned whether an OSBI investigation would be more independent since the OSBI’s seven-member governing board is appointed by the governor. Fallin has appointed five board members to date and the other two appointments are pending, said Michael McNutt, the governor’s press secretary.
Dorman said he would not favor an outside investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Absolutely not,” Dorman said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid federal intervention into the affairs of the state. We’ve seen that happen time and again. The feds interfered in the 1970s when our prison system needed reform and unfortunately our legislature didn’t take action at that time and we saw what happened. We need to avoid that this time.”
Executions are currently on hold in Oklahoma after problems developed during Lockett’s April 29 execution by lethal injection. Lockett’s body tensed and jerked for three minutes after the drugs were administered before the blinds were closed, blocking the view of execution witnesses. Lockett died 43 minutes into the execution of an apparent heart attack.
Dorman authored legislation this year that would authorize the harvesting of organs from consenting death row inmates scheduled for execution. Dorman said he has received letters from two death row inmates supporting the idea, but the bill was not heard by the Legislature.