Less media, more sedatives: Oklahoma reviews capital punishment protocols after botched execution

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Reuters/Jenevieve Robbins

Oklahoma announced that more sedatives and less media, among other measures, are part of the state’s new protocol for capital punishment after a botched execution in April left an inmate writhing in pain before dying 43 minutes after a lethal injection.

The state revealed Tuesday that it will increase the amount of midazolam it employs during executions. Prison officials said the use of the controversial sedative can be as much as five times the amount used to kill Clayton Lockett in April.

Oklahoma will also demand more training of prison staff and members of execution squads while outlining contingency plans in case of equipment malfunction or a problem with an inmate’s medical condition.

The state will also reduce the number of media witnesses allowed at executions from 12 to five.

Robert Patton, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, would not comment to AP on the new guidelines based on litigation over Lockett’s death.

Clayton Lockett (Reuters/Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

Clayton Lockett (Reuters/Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

Twenty-one death row inmates sued the Department after Lockett’s bungled execution. Lockett died after doctors burst a vein in his body administering a controversial cocktail of drugs. As RT reported in April, the drugs leaked out of his vein as a result, and an unknown amount was absorbed into his body. Although lethal injections typically take about 10 minutes or so to kill an individual, Lockett’s procedure lasted for 43 minutes, during which he reportedly writhed, groaned, and clenched his teeth before officials closed the blinds from witnesses’ view.

The incident triggered an investigation, ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin. The new protocols are the result of that probe, which ultimately blamed the excruciating manner in which Lockett died on a misplaced intravenous line in his groin, and on a decision by the warden to obscure view of the IV site with a sheet.

Yet the supposed solutions that have come from the investigation are not enough, according Dale Baich, assistant federal public defender who is representing the inmates that sued the Department of Corrections.

“We still do not know what went wrong with Mr Lockett’s execution,” Baich said.

“Discovery and fact-finding by the federal courts will address those issues,” he added.

Baich also said the new media provision “reduces public accountability and makes the process less transparent.”

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