McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 1, 2014

Lockett cut self, tasered before bungled execution attempt

DOC director wants executions stayed


McALESTER — The Department of Corrections has confirmed a condemned inmate cut himself hours before his lethal injection was stopped, apparently due to a collapsed vein.

A DOC timeline of Clayton Lockett’s execution day was released during a corrections board meeting in Oklahoma City on Thursday. It’s in the form of a letter from DOC Director Robert Patton to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

In the letter, Patton asked for an indefinite stay of any more executions in Oklahoma and recommended the Court of Criminal Appeals issue a stay while new execution protocols are developed.

Lockett was declared dead Tuesday evening following a bungled execution attempt at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. The DOC said Lockett died of an apparent heart attack after the execution attempt failed.

The DOC refused to release further information on the matter Wednesday, and Thursday until handing out a copy of Patton’s letter to the governor.

The timeline indicates Lockett was tasered by a prison special response team at about 6 a.m. Tuesday after he refused to be restrained for an escort to a medical unit for X-rays as part of the execution protocol.

A self-inflicted laceration to his right arm was found afterwards in the prison’s H Unit medical room, where Lockett had been taken, the DOC reported.

According to the timeline, Lockett was then transported by vehicle to the prison’s medical facility. Medical personal treated Lockett for the laceration and checked him every 15 minutes. Three members of the prison’s cell watch team were assigned for continuous observation, the letter states.

Around 8:15 a.m., a physician assistant examined Lockett and determined no sutures were needed, according to the timeline in the letter.

At 8:40 a.m., Lockett was returned to an isolation cell, where he was checked every 15 minutes by the cell watch team, according to the letter.

Lockett refused a visit from his attorneys at 9:15 a.m. and refused a food tray he was offered at 9:42 a.m., the letter states.

Lockett refused another food tray and confirmed his refusal to visit with his attorneys as the day continued.

From 4:10 to 4:40 p.m., a prison restraint team escorted Lockett to a final holding cell prior to execution. He visited with mental health personnel from 4:55 until 5:10 p.m., the letter states.

Lockett was then escorted from the holding cell to the execution chamber by OSP Warden Anita Trammell and the restraint team, where he was restrained and placed on the execution chamber at 5:22 p.m.

But when it came time for the execution, none of the veins in his arms, legs or feet could be used for the IV to administer the lethal injection, according to the timeline in the letter.

A phlebotomist entered the execution chamber to determine the appropriate placement for the IV, the letter states.

“The phlebotomist entered the execution chamber to determine the appropriate placement for the IV,” the letter continues. After examining Lockett’s left and right arms, left and right legs and both feet for a viable insertion point, “no viable point of entry was discovered,” the letter states.

The doctor then examined Lockett’s neck and the groin area, according to the letter.

Eventually, Lockett’s groin was covered, apparently after the site was chosen for an IV, and the execution began as shades to the execution area were raised.

The timeline also indicates the sedative midazolam was administered at 6:23 p.m. Tuesday, and the next two drugs, vecuronium bromide (a paralytic) and potassium chloride (which stops the heart) were administered at 6:33 after a doctor determined Lockett was unconscious. But at 6:42 p.m., shades to the execution chamber were lowered, the doctor checked the IV insertion site, and at 6:56 p.m. the doctor reported  a “blood vein had collapsed and drugs had either leaked in the tissue, leaked out or both,” the letter states.

Warden Trammell immediately informed Director Patton, according to the letter.

When the doctor told the director that enough drugs had not been administered to cause death, another vein was not available and not enough drugs remained, Patton asked about Clayton’s condition.

“The director asked the condition of the offender, the warden responded the doctor was checking the offender’s heart beat and found a faint heart beat and the offender was unconscious,” the letter states.

Patton called off the execution at 6:56 p.m.

The DOC letter states Lockett was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m., 10 minutes after Patton stopped the execution.

Patton asked for an external investigation of Lockett’s execution attempt because he believes it will be “perceived as more credible if conducted by an external entity,” according to the DOC timeline letter.

He also plans to conduct a complete review and revision to the state’s execution protocols.

“The current protocol puts all responsibility and decision making on the warden at Oklahoma State Penitentiary,” the letter states.

“Those decisions should rest on upper management and ultimately on the Director of Corrections. As written, the current protocol does not require the director’s review or approval prior to implementation.

“I intend to explore best practices from other states and ensure the Oklahoma protocol adopts proven standards,” Patton said in the letter.

In requesting the indefinite stay of execution, Patton said it will take several days or possibly a few weeks to refine the new protocols and once they are written, it will require extensive training of staff before an execution can be scheduled.

He also said an external investigation by an outside agency into the circumstances surrounding the execution will receive full cooperation, including the disclosure of all information, from his agency.

CNHI Capitol Bureau Chief Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report.

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