A botched execution has raised questions about the drugs used for lethal injection. Officials confirmed that Clayton Lockett suffered for 43 minutes after the drugs were administered. Although it took nearly an hour, Lockett eventually died of a heart attack.
On June 3, 1999, Lockett and two others broke into an occupied Perry, Oklahoma, home. The homeowner, Bobby Lee Bornt, reportedly owed Lockett money.
During the home invasion, Stephanie Michelle Neiman arrived at Bornt’s home to drop off a female friend. As the women approached the door, they were forced inside by Lockett and his accomplices.
As reported by News OK, Lockett and his friends physically restrained Bornt, Neiman, and the other woman. All three were beaten as the suspects took turns raping the unidentified woman.
The three victims were eventually transported to a remote location. Witnesses said Neiman was shot dead, as she refused to give Lockett the keys to her truck. The three suspects buried Neiman in a shallow grave before transporting the surviving victims back to Bornt’s home.
In 2000, Lockett was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape, and robbery. At the age of 23, Clayton Lockett was sentenced to death.
Tulsa World reports that Lockett eventually accepted his fate. However, he and his attorney were both concerned about the drugs used for lethal injection. As the drugs had never been tested or used, and the source of the cocktail was not revealed, the effectiveness was unknown.
Prior to Lockett’s execution, public defender Madeline Cohen questioned the untested execution cocktail:
“States have turned to secrecy in the face of drug shortages. It’s a reaction to this combination of poorly experimental execution procedures and some frighteningly botched executions.”
Her statement was chillingly prophetic. Although Cohen was concerned, she had no idea Lockett would experience one of the most horrifically botched executions in history.
On Tuesday, the inmate was strapped to a table and administered the first of three injections. According to witnesses, Lockett began struggling against the restraints. He then raised his head from the table and said “Man… I’m not… something’s wrong.”
Realizing something was terribly wrong, the guards closed the curtain between the observation room and execution chamber.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton describes what happened next:
“We began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol… There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect. So the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown.”
Patton further explained that Clayton Lockett’s vein simply “exploded.” As the inmate continued to struggle, he was eventually sedated. Prison officials said Lockett “remained unconscious” after all “lethal injection drugs were administered.”
Fourty-three minutes after the first injection, Lockett died of a heart attack.
On January 16, a similar incident occurred in the state of Ohio. During his execution by lethal injection, convicted murderer and rapist Dennis McGuire suffered for nearly 20 minutes.
As reported by CNN, McGuire’s family subsequently filed a lawsuit against the state:
“The lawsuit alleges that when Mr. McGuire’s Ohio execution was carried out on January 16th, he did endure frequent episodes of air hunger and suffocation… Following administration of the execution protocol, the decedent experienced ‘repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain,’ and ‘looked and sounded as though he was suffocating.’ This continued for 19 minutes.”
Although Lockett and McGuire were both convicted of heinous crimes, the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents “cruel and unusual punishment.” As our nation has performed two frighteningly botched executions in less than six months, lethal injection drugs are facing close scrutiny.
Capitol punishment remains a point of intense controversy. Although some believe convicted killers deserve to die, others argue that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to die with some degree of dignity.
[Image via Washington Post]