A planned double execution in the state of Oklahoma was halted tonight after the delivery of a new drug combination failed, causing one man to die of a heart attack.
Clayton Lockett was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and shooting a 19-year-old woman and burying her alive. He was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Via the AP:
Patton halted Lockett's execution about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered. He said there was a vein failure. The execution began at 6:23 p.m. when officials began administering the first drug, and a doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33 p.m. About three minutes later, though, Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow. After about three minutes, a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering Lockett to examine the injection site. After that, an official who was inside the death chamber lowered the blinds, preventing those in the viewing room from seeing what was happening.
A second inmate who scheduled to be put to death after Locket, Charles Warner, was issued a 14-day postponement. Warner was convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old baby in 1997.
Both of the men had been involved in legal battles to force the state to disclose the source of the drugs used in the execution. Via KFOR:
[Lockett] and [Warner] have argued the state's secrecy over the combination of lethal drugs violates their constitutional rights and could result in a cruel and unusual death.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court eventually lifted a stay of execution and ruled the inmates' claims were "frivolous and not grounded in the law."
Justice Steven Taylor wrote:
"The plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair, they would have no right to know whether OG&E or PSO were providing the electricity; if they were being hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be cotton or nylon rope; or if they were being executed by firing squad, they would have no right to know whether it be by Winchester or Remington ammunition."
Department Of Corrections Spokesperson Jerry Massie said the drugs that will be used are midazolam (creates drowsiness...), vecuronium bromide (muscle relaxer), and potassium chloride (stops heart).
Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the court's decision affirmed a longstanding precedent that the source of the execution drugs should remain confidential to avoid "intimidation used by defense counsel and other anti-death penalty groups."
Mother Jones previously reported on the secrecy surrounding the untested drug cocktail:
Officials in Oklahoma and other states have resorted to these methods because they can no longer access sodium thiopental, the anesthetic traditionally used in lethal injections, and another drug used to paralyze the condemned. The lone US manufacturer quit producing sodium thiopental in 2011, and international suppliers—particulalry in the European Union, which opposes the death penalty on humanitarian grounds— have stopped exporting both drugs to the United States. This has left states like Oklahoma scrambling to find new pharmaceuticals for killing death row inmates. Some have been reduced to illegally importing the drugs, using untested combinations, or buying from unregulated compounding pharmacies, a number of which have a history of producing contaminated products.
Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution in Lockett's original execution date, which resulted in the two men being scheduled to die on the same day.