It’s worth noting that there have been a lot of legal actions related to lethal injections, and in the cases of Lockett and Warner, it nearly paralyzed the Oklahoma government. The lawsuits and appeals have revolved around secrecy associated with the manufacture and distribution of drugs used for executions, and have not focused on the unknowns surrounding the new drug protocols Oklahoma and other states have been using as their traditional sources have shrunk or disappeared.
In short, the drugs used to execute Lockett did not have the intended impact. They had been used in executions before, but not at the lower dosage levels used Tuesday night. Lockett did die of an apparent heart attack. A drug cocktail usually sedates and then paralyzes a condemned prisoner before stopping the heart. But it should not take 43 minutes from initial injection for an inmate to die, even though the Oklahoma Department of Corrections noted this execution might take longer due to the lower doses used. During those 43 minutes, according to witnesses, Lockett stirred and moved on the gurney, which doesn’t sit well with state assertions that Lockett was unconscious throughout the process – which was halted by the state prior to Lockett’s death.
While last night’s failed execution is getting a great deal of attention, it is part of a longer trend of dubious practices in the procurement and application of drugs. Back in January, an inmate died in Ohio in a longer-than-normal execution, with apparent struggling that would not have been out of place in Oklahoma’s death chamber last night. Had another inmate in Ohio been scheduled to die the same night, or even within days, that state may have called for an investigation, like Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin did. She also stayed Warner’s execution two weeks – probably not long enough for a thorough investigation. But perhaps long enough to let the media attention dissipate? Charles Warner is very interested to find out.
Meanwhile, today the governor of Ohio granted clemency to a death row inmate scheduled to die at the end of May. The state also decided yesterday to increase the dosage of the execution drugs in its current protocol. While the state’s parole board recommended clemency prior to yesterday’s botched execution, it will be tough for most to see this decision as not affected by what happened in Oklahoma. The next execution in Ohio is now scheduled for July 2