A federal hearing begins Wednesday over Oklahoma's attempts to resume executions nine months after a bungled lethal injection in which a death row inmate writhed on the gurney, mumbled and lifted his head after receiving a new drug combination.
Attorneys for 21 Oklahoma death row inmates argue the state's new lethal injection drug combinations and doses amount to human experiments that violate their constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishment. Attorneys for the state maintain the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett was an anomaly and that new protocols and training will prevent problems as they move forward with plans for a January execution.
An 80-page court filing in the case included never-before-released witness accounts from a Department of Public Safety investigation into Lockett's execution. Prison officials lowered the blinds after a doctor noticed problems with Lockett's IV, preventing some witnesses from seeing what happened. Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure began.
Some highlights from the witness accounts:
SELECTING THE DRUGS
The top lawyer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Michael Oakley, told state investigators the sedative midazolam was selected as the first of three drugs for Lockett's execution after he talked with officials from other states and conducted his own online research on "Wiki leaks or whatever it is," according to a transcript of the interview. Oakley said state officials were scrambling to find alternative drugs after those commonly used became scarce, and he acknowledged there was political pressure on the elected attorney general's office to "get it done, hurry up about it." Oakley retired days before Lockett's execution.
LACK OF TRAINING
Prison officials and members of the execution team told investigators they weren't properly trained and knew little about the effects of midazolam. A doctor and paramedic involved in the execution said they had never attended any training. The doctor, who placed an intravenous line in Lockett that became dislodged, also said the prison didn't have needles of the correct length. The names of the members of the execution team were not included in the documents.
Several witnesses said Lockett tried to talk after the midazolam was administered, and one witness became so upset she ran out of a viewing room.
BEHIND THE BLINDS
Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell told investigators that after the blinds were lowered, the doctor tried to set a second IV line in Lockett's groin, and that "blood squirted up and got all over his jacket." Trammell described that scene as a "bloody mess." One member of the execution team said Lockett continued trying to rise up from the gurney after the blinds were lowered and became "a little bit more aggressive." The paramedic described Lockett's execution from start to finish as "such a cluster."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, told investigators he was notified of a problem and began working on an executive order to halt the execution. He said he also talked to the director of the state's prison system, Robert Patton, and both agreed the execution should be halted.
However, all of the drugs had already been administered, and Lockett died as the members of the execution team debated what measures to take to save him
The doctor said the warden asked him if Lockett could be resuscitated, and he responded that he would have to take him to the local emergency room. A paramedic said no lifesaving measures were given "because the purpose of being there was to provide an execution ... and we were told not to reverse it."
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