The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

May 2, 2014

Unused dose of lethal Oklahoma drugs to be tested

OKLAHOMA CITY — Samples of the same drugs used in a botched execution that was stopped after the inmate convulsed and tried to lift his head will be tested as part of an investigation into his death, a probe that could result in Oklahoma executions being halted for months, officials said Friday.

Oklahoma’s attorney general’s office said the Department of Corrections saved syringes of the lethal drugs set aside for a second execution that had been set to follow Clayton Lockett’s. The second execution was put on hold for at least two weeks after Lockett’s went awry Tuesday night.

President Barack Obama on Friday called the Lockett incident “deeply troubling” and said he’s asked his attorney general for a review of the death penalty’s application.

Lockett died 43 minutes after his execution began of an apparent heart attack as Oklahoma used a new drug combination for the first time in the state.

Officials said Friday the autopsy report on Lockett will take two to three months to complete. Department of Public Safety spokesman Capt. George Brown said the autopsy, being performed in Dallas, is expected to be finished in eight to 12 weeks. Lockett’s body arrived in Dallas about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

Gov. Mary Fallin had called on Wednesday for an investigation of Lockett’s execution to be conducted by the state’s Department of Public Safety. She has issued a stay until May 13 for Warner’s execution, but said Thursday she was willing to issue a 60-day stay for Warner, the longest allowed under state law, if needed to complete the inquiry.

If 60 days is not adequate, Oklahoma’s attorney general has said he would request an additional stay from the courts to ensure no executions are carried out until the review is complete.

Attorneys for Lockett and Warner have criticized Fallin’s selection of DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson to lead the investigation. Thompson, who previously worked for the Department of Corrections, is a Fallin appointee and was a witness to Lockett’s execution.

“It’s not independent at all,” said Madeline Cohen, Warner’s attorney. “It’s the furthest thing from an independent investigation.”

The drugs intended for Warner were never used. Assistant Attorney General Kindanne Jones said in a letter Friday that attorneys for Lockett and Warner may have access to the drugs if any are left over after the state’s analysis is complete.

Before Lockett’s execution, the state had refused to provide the source of the execution drugs, citing state law that allows such details to remain confidential.

“The Attorney General will take this step to assure that the state continues its efforts to remain as transparent as legally and practically possible, in light of the law and very real challenges Oklahoma faces in assuring that all lawful sentences, including the death penalty, are carried out,” Jones wrote.

David Autry, an attorney for Lockett, described as “laughable” the attorney general’s contention that his office is being transparent.

“What we’ve asked for all along is not just these samples for testing, but who manufactured this stuff and whether it meets (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) standards, whether it was produced by a legitimate source,” Autry said. “We need to know all of that, and because of the state’s secrecy statute, we’re not receiving that information.”

The syringes intended for Warner’s execution Tuesday night are from the same manufacturers as the drugs used in Lockett’s execution, the state said Friday. The drugs were purchased at the same time and have the same expiration date.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton had detailed Lockett’s last day of life in a report issued Thursday. The report said Lockett had self-inflicted wounds on his arm, and the execution team was unable to find suitable veins in his arms, legs and neck. An IV was inserted into Lockett’s groin area and the execution began.

A spokesman for the United Nations human rights office in Geneva said Lockett’s prolonged execution could amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international human rights law. Rupert Colville said Lockett’s was the second problematic execution in the U.S. this year after one in Ohio in January.

Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999 after Neiman and a friend arrived at a home the men were robbing.

Warner was convicted of raping and killing his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997. He has maintained his innocence.

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