Oklahoma botches execution with experimental drug, raises death penalty questions


The Oklahoma Department of Corrections bungled one execution and stopped another on Tuesday. A new drug in the lethal injection cocktail failed to render the inmate unconscious.

Instead of being rendered unconscious, Clayton Lockett began convulsing after the first drug, midazolam, was injected at 6:23 p.m.. A second inmate, Charles Warner, had his execution delayed for 14 days.

The botched execution was the first time Oklahoma used midazolam in its lethal injection cocktail.

While he was writhing on the gurney, Lockett raised his head and said, "Man," "I'm not," and "something's wrong," according to a KFOR-TV eyewitness reporter.

Lockett's attorney, Dean Sanderford, told reporters that the movements started as a "twitch," and then "the convulsing got worse. It looked like his whole upper body was trying to lift off the gurney. For a minute, there was chaos."

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton told reporters that Lockett's vein exploded after the midazolam was injected. The inmate was given the rest of the lethal injection cocktail, and died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the first injection.

States across the country have had to change their cocktails after several European drug manufacturers banned American prisons from using their products in executions. The other two drugs in the Oklahoma lethal injection sequence are vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Midazolam is supposed to sedate the prisoner, then vecuronium bromide stops the inmate's breathing. Finally, potassium chloride stops the heart.

The state's death penalty guidelines came under fire last month after Oklahoma initially refused to reveal the lethal injection's ingredients.

Charles Warner's attorney, Madeline Cohen demanded an investigation be conducted into the state's execution procedures.

"The state must disclose complete information about the drugs, including their purity, efficacy, source and the results of any testing," she said in a statement.

"Until much more is known about tonight's failed experiment of an execution, no execution can be permitted in Oklahoma."

Legal Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson questioned whether executions should be conducted in the state at all.

"There are serious concerns about the lethal injection process in light of more and more botched executions conducted with questionable drugs from questionable sources, and an Oklahoma law now bars inmates (and everybody else) from finding out important information needed to ensure compliance with the Constitution," Henderson said in a statement.

"If we are to have executions at all, they must not be conducted like hastily thrown together human science experiments."