Oklahoma Places Temporary Hold On Executions After Botched Injection

By McCarton Ackerman 05/01/14

Convicted murderer Clayton Lockett suffered for 43 minutes before he finally died of a heart attack.

clayton lockett.jpg
Clayton Lockett. Photo via

Oklahoma will hold off on all lethal injections of inmates for the next two weeks after a vein on one inmate allegedly “exploded” in the middle of his execution, sparking a longer and more painful death.

Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, died from a reported heart attack 43 minutes after his first injection. He was injected with midazolam, which is supposed to render a person unconscious, but was still awake and coherent 17 minutes afterwards. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said that Lockett was sedated before being given the second and third drugs in protocol, but local reporters claimed prison officials lowered the blinds so onlookers couldn’t see what was happening after it became clear that the injection was botched.

A separate execution scheduled that afternoon for Charles Warner, convicted in 2003 of raping and murdering an 11-month old girl, was called off and given a 14-day delay. But anti-death penalty advocates are using the incident to call for the full removal of lethal injections, citing it as a violation of the Eighth Amendment which prohibits the federal government from inflicting cruel or unusual punishments.

“Tonight, our state government has acted in sin and violated God's law. We will pray for their souls,” said Adam Leathers, co-chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “[They] tortured a human being in an unconstitutional experimental act of evil.” Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, also declared that “Oklahoma cannot carry out further executions until there’s transparency in this process.”

Last month, a Texas judge halted two prison executions until the Texas Department of Criminal Justice revealed the name of the company providing them with lethal injection drugs. Several recent cases have been reported of inmates experiencing undue suffering during their execution. Because of a severe shortage of drugs used for executions in the U.S., many of these lethal injections are using combined drugs by compounding pharmacies unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.