Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

May 7, 2014

House of Burgess: Our (lethal injection) drug problem

Fatal components increasingly scarce

America has a drug problem. Specifically, a lethal injection drug problem.

Ziva Branstetter’s account of Clayton Darrell Lockett’s tortuous April 29 demise is Exhibit A. The Tulsa World enterprise editor was one of several horrified witnesses to the botched execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The real trouble started 13 minutes in when Lockett began moving violently and speaking incoherently. The following moments are ghastly:

6:38 p.m. - “Lockett is grimacing, grunting and lifting his head and shoulders entirely up from the gurney. He begins rolling his head from side to side. He again mumbles something we can’t understand, except for the word ‘man.’ He lifts his head and shoulders off the gurney several times, as if he’s trying to sit up. He appears to be in pain.”

6:39 p.m. - “The physician walks around to Lockett’s right arm, lifts up the sheet and says something to [Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell]. ‘We’re going to lower the blinds temporarily,’ she says. The blinds are lowered and we can’t see what is happening. Reporters exchange shocked glances. Nothing like this has happened at an execution any of us has witnessed since 1990, when the state resumed executions using lethal injection.”

All told, it took 33 minutes to call off the execution, and 10 more gruesome revolutions of the second hand for Lockett to expire — of a heart attack. Just days before, concerns over the origin of the state’s novel mixture of midazolam (paralytic), vecuronium bromide (muscle relaxant) and potassium chloride (lethal dose) had been silenced by Oklahoma’s highest court.

“Oklahoma plans to hold its first double execution in nearly 80 years, said Gov. Mary Fallin … The move comes a day after the state Supreme Court [ruled April 23 that Lockett] and Charles Warner are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them,” reported Sean Murphy of The Associated Press April 24.

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