06 May 2014

Botched execution takes 40 minutes, victim not sedated

An execution in the US state of Oklahoma took a turn for the tragic last week as the lethal was not administered properly leaving the inmate partially conscious as he lay dying.


Witnesses report that Clayton Lockett, after being declared unconscious by a doctor, tried to get up, gasped and called out “oh, man.” At 7:06pm, 43 minutes after the procedure began, Mr. Lockett finally succumbed to a heart attack. In the previous 19 executions at the prison, it took no longer than 12 minutes before the prisoner was declared dead.

The deceased was convicted in 2000 of the kidnapping, rape and murder of 19-year old Stephanie Neiman and sentenced to death by lethal injection, the most commonly used form of execution in the US.

Read: Would you witness an execution?

The procedure entails injecting the prisoner with a sedative to render them unconscious, then another chemical to stop the breathing, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Problems arose when a vein in the groin was chosen as the site of injection. Due to the fact that there were several witnesses present, a cloth was placed to obscure the groin area. This presented the execution staff from realising that the vein had collapsed and that most of the chemicals had gone into the surrounding tissue or leaked out altogether. As a result, Lockett did not receive the dose necessary to complete the procedure.

Read: 10 facts about lethal injection

The execution was halted after 20 minutes when it was realised that Lockett was not fully unconscious. He was able to raise his head and say “something’s wrong” despite having been declared unconscious by a doctor.

At this point prison director Robert Patton asked the doctor leading the execution whether the inmate had received enough drugs to kill him, to which the doctor said no. The doctor then told Patton that there were not enough drugs remaining to kill him if they were to use another injection site. At this point there was nothing the staff could do to end the execution procedure except to see if Lockett would recover from the ill-effects of what dose he had received.

This situation continued for another 20 minutes before the stress on Lockett’s body caused him to suffer a fatal heart attack. He was 38 years old.

Read: US state approaching record number of executions

A second execution was scheduled to take place immediately after Lockett’s, but this was delayed by following its botched predecessor. Charles Warner, who was to be executed, received a two week stay of execution while the process was reviewed. The Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, immediately ordered a review into the state’s execution procedures, though she has long been a supporter of capital punishment.

32 of the 50 states in America currently allow executions and there are over 3000 inmates currently on death row. Other methods used include electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad.

Capital punishment has been illegal in South Africa since 1995, though a study last year suggested that there could be strong support for its reinstatement.

Read more:
Are executions torture?
Judge blocks sale of drugs for execution
A sane mass murderer?

Sources: New York Times/News24/Oklahoma Department of Corrections/




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