After Oklahoma officials screwed up the execution of rapist-murderer Clayton Lockett, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin issued a two-week stay on the execution of Charles Warner, the rapist-murderer who was also supposed to have been given his own lethal injection after officials were done killing Lockett.
As everybody who has been paying even cursory attention now knows, the foul-up occurred when officials injected Lockett with a three-drug combination. He spoke inaudibly twice and was heard to say "oh, man" once (not "Something's wrong," as several people reported). With the needle in his arm, he twisted on the death gurney, tensed his muscles and clenched his teeth for several minutes but he remained alive. Clearly, something was wrong. A physician examined Lockett and found the procedure had blown a vein and the drugs had stopped flowing. Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton stopped the execution. Lockett was pronounced dead of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began. Tortured to death.
Gov. Fallin subsequently issued her 14-day stay on Warner. In a later response, Madeline Cohen, Warner's defense attorney, told Dustin Volz at the National Journal sarcastically: "Apparently they can conduct their entire investigation in two weeks."
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
Volz provided a serrated view of the mess that Oklahoma officials made of the state's planned double execution:
A battle of political wills over Oklahoma's secretive lethal-injection protocol turned into a gruesome scene of macabre theater Tuesday evening, as the state botched the execution of one inmate and halted that of another scheduled later in the night.Charles P. Pierce at Esquire had a more pungent response:
The mishandling reflects the extraordinary and surreptitious lengths a handful of active death-penalty states are now willing to go to in order to continue their executions, capital-punishment opponents say, and represents just the latest episode in a string of disturbing events on Oklahoma's death row in recent months. [...]
Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that officials ignored warning signs in other states where untested, secretive combinations of drugs have been used recently. The specific combination of drugs in Lockett's execution has only been used before in Florida, although the protocol there asked for five times the amount of midazolam, which acts as a sedative.
"The whole idea that you can just do whatever you want as long as you kill somebody was a recipe for a failure," Dieter said. "If you work in a silo and think that you have it all covered, you're going to make mistakes."
I am saying this quite deliberately. The state of Oklahoma committed an act of fucking barbarism last night. It did so under the color of law, which makes every citizen of that benighted state complicit in the act of fucking barbarism. The governor of that state, a pink balloon named Mary Fallin, is a fucking barbarian. A state legislator named Mike Christian is a fucking barbarian, for reasons we will get to in a moment. Every politician in that benighted state belongs in a fucking cage this morning. [...]In January, with the same secret cocktail of drugs, Oklahoma executed Michael Lee Wilson, convicted of a 1995 murder of a co-worker at a convenience story. Before he died he said, "'I feel my whole body burning."
Because an American manufacturer stopped selling sodium thiopental, one of the drugs used in executions, and the European Union refused to export both it and another of the drugs, pentobarbital, to United States, several states have had trouble acquiring them as well as a third drug used in death cocktails. Both Oklahoma and Texas were among those states and began trying to acquire the drugs quietly for fear that public scrutiny would make potential sellers shy away.
Last month, Katie Fretland at The Colorado Independent, wrote:
"Convicts executed in Oklahoma have in some cases died from overdoses of pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, the anesthetic, rather than the second and third injections in the three-drug cocktail, according to documents obtained by The Independent," reporter Katie Fretland writes. "Records show executioners then injected the remaining two drugs into convicts' dead bodies for what forms turned over in response to an open-records request refer to as 'disposal purposes.' "That wasn't the whole story. Fretland noted a "disturbing flippancy" among officials involved in Oklahoma executions:
In response to a request from Texas for advice on how to deal with the scarcity of the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental, records show that Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham quipped in a January 2011 email to a colleague that Oklahoma might cooperate in exchange for much sought-after 50-yard-line tickets to the Red River Rivalry, a football game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas. In a reply, fellow Assistant Attorney General Stephen J. Krise joked that for Oklahoma’s assistance Texas’s team should intentionally lose several games.Gov. Fallin's investigation obviously needs to go a lot further and a lot deeper than merely looking at what happened Tuesday night.
“Looks like they waited until the last minute and now need help from those they refused to help earlier,” Krise wrote. “So, I propose we help if TX promises to take a dive in the OU-TX game for the next 4 years.”
No digging would be needed if Oklahoma would join the District of Columbia and the 18 states without a death penalty. But that seems unlikely considering that, with 110 executions since 1976, it is tied for second place with Virginia among the states. Only Texas, at 515, has executed more. Oklahoma ranks fourth among the states in the number of death row inmates—10—exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted.