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Oklahoma needs clear execution protocols to keep public's trust

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 25, 2014
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OKLAHOMA is a pro-death penalty state. This was clearly evident in letters to the editor and online comments following the execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett in late April.

Lockett writhed on the gurney after the drugs were administered. He didn’t die until more than 40 minutes after the execution started. State prison officials said his vein collapsed where the IV had been inserted in his leg. Preliminary results of an autopsy sought by Lockett’s attorneys said the IV hadn’t been placed properly.

Yet the general sentiment among Oklahomans was that botched or not, Lockett got what he deserved; any suffering he may have experienced paled in comparison with his victim — a 19-year-old woman who was beaten, shot twice and then, at Lockett’s behest, buried alive.

But those who favor the death penalty should also want the execution procedure to be beyond reproach. It’s not at all clear that this is the case in Oklahoma, as shown in recent reporting by the Tulsa World.

The World reviewed execution protocols in the 20 states, including Oklahoma, that have carried out an execution since 2008. The newspaper found that Oklahoma’s policies leave much to be desired in comparison. Among the findings:

No specific procedures are required to make sure an inmate is unconscious before the heart-stopping drug is administered. Five other states have specific directions on how to determine consciousness.

Members of the execution team aren’t required to undergo regular training. In about half the states that make their execution protocols public, team members must train for the procedure regularly.

Oklahoma doesn’t require backup drugs be on hand in case the first dose of lethal drugs doesn’t work. Nine states require a second complete set of drugs for use in such cases.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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