Scene at Botched Oklahoma Execution of Clayton Lockett Was 'Bloody Mess'
A doctor tried to set a new intravenous line in the groin area of Clayton Lockett during the condemned Oklahoma inmate’s botched execution, but blood squirted on to his clothing.
The prison warden described the scene as “a bloody mess”, according to a court document lawyers filed on Friday night on behalf of a group of Oklahoma death row inmates. The lawyers are asking a federal court judge to stop their executions, arguing their killings would be unconstitutionally cruel.
Oklahoma plans to execute Charles Warner on 15 January, Richard Glossip on 29 January, John Grant on 19 February and Benjamin Cole on 5 March.
Lockett died 43 minutes after the first execution drug was administered on 29 April, at the Oklahoma state penitentiary. He groaned, writhed, lifted his head and shoulders off the gurney and said “man”. Blinds were then drawn, blocking the killing from the view of journalists and his attorneys.
Lockett, 38, was convicted of the killing of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman in 1999. She was shot and buried alive. Lockett was also convicted of raping her friend.
The court filing on Friday revealed new information about what happened to Lockett.
The doctor ran back and forth to check Lockett, according to the document. Lockett “raised up a little bit a couple of times and the phlebotomist told him to take deep breaths, you know, kind of out loud”, a witness said.
The witness, whose name was redacted, said he held Lockett down. Lockett’s movement “was a little bit more aggressive” than when the blinds were open, the witness said.
A paramedic involved in the execution described the doctor’s efforts to introduce another IV.
“I said [redacted] you’ve hit the artery,” the paramedic said. “Well, it’ll be alright [sic]. We’ll go ahead and get the drugs. No. We can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way and then I wasn’t telling him that. I mean I wasn’t trying to countermand his authority but he was a little anxious … I don’t think he realized that he hit the artery and I remember saying you’ve got the artery. We’ve got blood everywhere.”
The court filing describes the accounts of other witnesses during the botched execution. The lawyers who made the filing have access to transcripts of interviews conducted by the state department of public safety about Lockett’s execution. The transcripts are sealed in the court case, but the court did not find that the facts of the case should be sealed.
The first drug in the lethal injection was given at 6.23pm, records show. The doctor declared him unconscious at 6.33pm, but the doctor indicated that while the other drugs were given Lockett “raised his head up” and was “kind of jerking it”, according to the court filing.
He said Lockett “started moaning” and he “thought he was seizing”.
Warden Anita Trammell said she thought Lockett spoke.
“… I mean, I was kind of panicking,” she said. “Thinking oh my God. He’s coming out of this. It’s not working.”
Edith Shoals, a victim services advocate with the corrections department, was in an overflow room watching the execution. She said a woman ran out of the room. “It was like a horror movie … he kept trying to talk,” Shoals said.
Travis Brauer, an aide to the governor listening to the execution from the governor’s office, said he heard “a moaning noise”, according to the document.
Lockett was pricked at least 16 times in attempts to get the IV inserted for the lethal injection, according to the court filing. He was “in some pain”, Trammell said.
The correct needle was unavailable, and the doctor used a 1.25in needle instead of a 2in to 2.25in needle to put an IV in Lockett’s femoral vein. The doctor declined to set a second line.
“We had stuck this individual so many times, I didn’t want to try and do another line,” the doctor said. The state cited a failure of the IV in an investigation of the botched execution.
The corrections director, Robert Patton, called off the execution at about 6.56pm.
No life-saving measures were given to Lockett, according to the paramedic. Trammell asked the doctor if resuscitating Lockett was possible, according to the court filing.
According to the document, the doctor said “he would have to take Lockett to the emergency room, but someone told (the doctor) that they could not do that”.
Another witness said Trammell asked “if they could bring him back to life” and he thought the physician “said no”, the document states.
Oklahoma injected Lockett with midazolam, which acts as a sedative and is also used as an anti-seizure drug, followed by vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The drugs came from a “licensed pharmacist in the State of Oklahoma”, according to the court filing.
Mike Oakley, the former general counsel for the corrections department, said he consulted with general counsels in other states about midazolam. Oakley also consulted the internet.
“I did have a discussion with our medical director at the time and he said, ‘Yeah Midazolam probably when administered will, will render sedation,’” Oakley said. “And that’s all he would say. Then, you know, I did my own research, I looked on-line, you know. Went past the key Wiki leaks, Wiki leaks or whatever it is, and I did find out that when administered, Midazolam would administer, would render a person unconscious. That’s what we needed … So we thought it was okay.”
Oakley described “political pressure”, according to the document.
“[T]he attorney general’s office, being an elective office, was under a lot of pressure,” he said. “The, the staff over there was under a lot of pressure to, to say, ‘Get it done,’ you know, and so, yeah, I, I think it was a joint decision but there was, I got to say there was a definite push to make the decision, get it done, hurry up about it.”