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Vocapedia > USA > Law, Justice > Death Penalty > Executions > Botched executions





Oklahoma inmate's execution botched        Video

An Oklahoma inmate convulsed for minutes

and then died after a botched lethal injection.


CNN's Pamela Brown has more.

More from CNN at http://www.cnn.com/


YouTube > CNN        30 April 2014



















Oklahoma’s corrections director, Robert Patton, foreground,

who made the call to stop Mr. Lockett’s execution.


Credit John Clanton/Tulsa World


Oklahoma Vows Review of Botched Execution

By ERIK ECKHOLM and JOHN SCHWARTZ        NYT        APRIL 30, 2014
































botched execution / bungled execution / flawed execution        UK / USA











































Dennis McGuire's execution        UK






botched executions

Executions halted in California and Florida        December 2006






inhumane        UK















Lethal injections:

a brief history of botched US executions        UK        30 April 2014


Clayton Lockett's death was not the first time

something went wrong during an execution.

A look at past bungled executions


















Jerry Massie,

spokesman for the state Corrections Department,

waited to be told Clayton D. Lockett had died.


Credit John Clanton/Tulsa World


Oklahoma Vows Review of Botched Execution

By ERIK ECKHOLM and JOHN SCHWARTZ        NYT        APRIL 30, 2014
















Obama Orders

Policy Review on Executions


MAY 2, 2014

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — President Obama declared this week’s botched execution in Oklahoma “deeply disturbing” and directed the attorney general on Friday to review how the death penalty is applied in the United States at a time when it has become increasingly debated.

Weighing in on a polarizing issue that he rarely discusses, Mr. Obama said the Oklahoma episode, in which a prisoner remained groaning in pain after sedatives were apparently not fully delivered, underscored concerns with capital punishment as it is carried out in America today. While reiterating his support for the death penalty in certain cases, Mr. Obama said Americans should “ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions” about its use.

Within hours, the Justice Department outlined a relatively narrow review focused on how executions are carried out rather assessing the entire system. But given Mr. Obama’s broader comments, supporters and opponents wondered whether he might be foreshadowing an eventual shift in position by the time he leaves office, much as he dropped his opposition to same-sex marriage in 2012.

“In the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, you know, situations in which there were individuals on death row who later on were discovered to have been innocent because of exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.”

Whether Mr. Obama’s concerns lead to policy proposals remained far from certain, but the administration review comes at a time when the use of the death penalty has begun to recede in the United States. The number of executions has fallen by half since its modern peak in 2000, while a half-dozen states have abolished capital punishment over the last seven years and others have imposed moratoriums or are exploring legislation to repeal it.

The federal government has effectively imposed its own moratorium on carrying out executions since 2010 while trying to figure out issues surrounding the drug cocktail commonly used for lethal injection. The Justice Department said Friday that it would build on that assessment.

“At the president’s direction, the department will expand this review to include a survey of state-level protocols and related policy issues,” said Brian Fallon, a department spokesman.

For Democrats, opposition to the death penalty has been considered politically untenable at the national level ever since Michael S. Dukakis cost himself support with a clinical answer during a 1988 presidential debate about whether he would support it if his wife were raped and killed.

But critics argue that the times have changed with reports of racial disparity and DNA evidence exonerating some on death row. Sixty percent of the American public still backs the death penalty for those convicted of murder, but support has fallen to the lowest level in more than 40 years, according to Gallup.

For his part, Mr. Obama has been more willing to address issues like racial disparity and other problems in the criminal justice system since his re-election. He is currently planning to use his clemency powers to release hundreds and perhaps even thousands of drug convicts serving long sentences for less serious infractions.

“I suspect this being his last term, there could be ulterior motives to weaken the death penalty system,” said David B. Muhlhausen, a criminal justice researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “People who believe in the death penalty should be very concerned about this.”

For now, Mr. Obama said his position had not changed.

“The individual who was subject to the death penalty had committed heinous crimes, terrible crimes,” he said of the Oklahoma inmate. “And I’ve said in the past that there are certain circumstances in which a crime is so terrible that the application of the death penalty may be appropriate — mass killings, the killings of children.”

Oklahoma authorities were trying to carry out two executions on Tuesday night when the first one went awry. Clayton D. Lockett, convicted of the murder of a 19-year-old woman whom he shot and buried alive, started writhing in pain as he received the lethal injection drugs, and died later. The second execution was called off.

Mr. Lockett’s ordeal prompted a lawyer for a Missouri death row inmate to ask state corrections officials to videotape her client’s execution scheduled for this month to record any suffering.

Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, applauded Mr. Obama’s resolve to investigate concerns about Oklahoma and the use of capital punishment more generally.

“The significant thing is the president as a person who supports the death penalty is expressing these concerns,” she said. “The president is not alone among those who support the death penalty who say this execution crossed the line and has other concerns.”

Mr. Obama has long said he supports capital punishment for the most shocking crimes, but he has also questioned its effectiveness. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” he wrote that “the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime.” After student and professional journalists in his home state of Illinois came up with evidence of an innocent man on death row and other problems with the system, Mr. Obama, as a state senator, decided to take on the issue.

He worked closely with disparate sides in the long-running debate, including prosecutors, the police and the American Civil Liberties Union, to push through legislation requiring that interrogations in homicide cases be electronically taped to cut down on false confessions. He also opposed adding more crimes to the list of those eligible for death sentences.

But Mr. Obama has not sought more expansive restrictions at either the state or federal level. During his 2008 campaign for president, he disagreed with a Supreme Court decision ruling the death penalty unconstitutional in the case of a child who was raped but not murdered.

The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., whom he has now tasked to review the matter, though, has been an open opponent of capital punishment. During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Holder said he disagreed with the death penalty personally but would enforce the law. He has approved seeking it in fewer than 5 percent of cases where it was eligible, according to the Justice Department, but did sign off on pursuing death sentences in cases such as that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber.

Mr. Holder has expressed concern about the disparity of those sitting on death row, and those who know him said he would be eager to have a chance to conduct a broader review of the penalty.

What action the federal government could take on capital punishment is up for debate since most death sentences are applied at the state level. But many state corrections officials follow federal protocols for executions, and some advocates on both sides said Washington could set a tone for the rest of the nation.

In recent years, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland have abolished the death penalty. The governor of Washington State declared in February that no executions would take place while he remained in office, following a similar move by the governor of Oregon in 2011. Last year, Colorado’s governor issued an indefinite reprieve in the only case on his watch.


A version of this article appears in print on May 3, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Obama Orders Policy Review on Executions.

Obama Orders Policy Review on Executions,






Timeline Describes Frantic Scene

at Oklahoma Execution


MAY 1, 2014
The New York Times


McALESTER, Okla. — Early on the morning of Clayton D. Lockett’s scheduled execution, he defied prison officers seeking to shackle him for the required walk to get X-rays. So they shocked him with a Taser, Oklahoma’s chief of corrections stated in an account released Thursday of Mr. Lockett’s final day, before his execution went awry.

Once Mr. Lockett was in an examining room, the staff discovered that he had slashed his own arm; a physician assistant determined that sutures would not be needed.

Hours later on that Tuesday, as his 6 p.m. time for lethal injection approached, Mr. Lockett lay strapped on a gurney in the execution chamber.

Finding a suitable vein and placing an IV line took 51 minutes. A medical technician searched both of his arms, both of his legs and both of his feet for a vein into which to insert the needle, but “no viable point of entry was located,” reported the corrections chief, Robert Patton, in a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin that her office released. A doctor, the letter said, “went to the groin area.”

A catheter was inserted into Mr. Lockett’s groin, and officials placed a sheet over him for privacy. The account did not make clear who inserted the catheter.

The Department of Corrections provided the newly detailed account as it reels from questions about its execution procedures and training of personnel as well as its secret sources of lethal drugs.

The detailed timeline raised further questions about Mr. Lockett’s treatment before and during the bungled execution and subsequent death. Mr. Patton recommended indefinitely suspending further executions, an independent review of what took place, and that he be given power over execution protocol and decision making, rather than the state penitentiary warden.

“I believe the report will be perceived as more credible if conducted by an external entity,” Mr. Patton said. The governor had previously called for a review by state officials.

The account gave greater detail about Mr. Lockett’s final minutes and the frantic scene that unfolded after the blinds were drawn on witnesses. With something clearly going terribly wrong, the doctor “checked the IV and reported that the blood vein had collapsed, and the drugs had either absorbed into the tissue, leaked out or both,” Mr. Patton wrote.

The warden called Mr. Patton, who asked, “Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?” The doctor answered no.

“Is another vein available, and if so, are there enough drugs remaining?” The doctor responded no again. Mr. Patton then asked about Mr. Lockett’s condition; the warden said that the doctor “found a faint heartbeat” and that Mr. Lockett was unconscious.

At 6:56, Mr. Patton called off the execution. Ten minutes later, at 7:06, “Doctor pronounced Offender Lockett dead,” the letter states.

Legal experts on the death penalty said they were surprised, and even shocked, by several things revealed in the new letter. “I’ve never heard of a case of an inmate being Tasered before being executed,” said Deborah Denno, an expert on execution at Fordham Law School and a death penalty opponent.

David Dow, a death penalty appellate lawyer in Texas, said that prisoners sometimes resist leaving their cells, but that “it’s not something that happens regularly.” He expressed surprise that the medical staff administering the drugs did not have a second vein ready in case of problems with the first. “For a state that executes people,” he said, “they are awfully bad at it.”

“Oklahoma is revealing information about this excruciatingly inhumane execution in a chaotic manner, with the threat of execution looming over Charles Warner,” she said, referring to the second prisoner. “This most recent information about the tortuous death of Mr. Lockett, and the state’s efforts to whitewash the situation, only intensifies the need for transparency.”

Mr. Lockett was condemned for the murder of a 19-year-old woman whom he shot and buried alive. Mr. Warner was convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old girl.

The disorderly execution, Mr. Lockett’s apparent suffering and the legal battles within Oklahoma that preceded it over the state’s refusal to disclose where it obtained execution drugs have drawn international attention to problems with lethal injections. Accidents have become more common, experts say, as states, facing shortages in critical drugs, are trying new drugs and combinations from secret sources.

But Oklahoma officials said that problems with the IV delivery, not the drugs themselves, accounted for Tuesday night’s problems.

Anesthesiologists said that while they sometimes use a femoral vein accessible from the groin when those in the arms and legs are not accessible, the procedure is more complicated and potentially painful.

Putting a line in the groin “is a highly invasive and complex procedure which requires extensive experience, training and credentialing,” said Dr. Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University. Oklahoma does not reveal the personnel involved in executions.

“There are a number of ways of checking whether a central line is properly placed in a vein, and had those been done they ought to have known ahead of time that the catheter was improperly positioned,” Dr. Heath said.

Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, said that the prison’s initial account that the vein had collapsed or blown was almost certainly incorrect.

“The femoral vein is a big vessel,” Dr. Zivot said. Finding the vein, however, can be tricky. The vein is not visible from the surface, and is near a major artery and nerves. “You can’t feel it, you can’t see it,” he said.

Without special expertise, Dr. Zivot said, the failure was not surprising.

Alex Weintz, a spokesman for the governor, said that Ms. Fallin could grant a stay only of up to 60 days, and that a request for an indefinite stay would have to be made by the attorney general to the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals.

“If he chooses to make that request, Governor Fallin would support him,” Mr. Weintz said. “Ultimately, Governor Fallin’s goal, as well as Director Patton’s, is to review the procedures at the Department of Corrections, ensure they work and then proceed with lawful executions in Oklahoma.”


Erik Eckholm reported from McAlester,

and John Schwartz from New York.



A version of this article appears in print on May 2, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Timeline Describes Frantic Scene at Execution.

    Timeline Describes Frantic Scene at Oklahoma Execution,
    NYT, 1.5.2014,






State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma


APRIL 30, 2014
The New York Times
The Opinion Pages | Editorial


At 6:36 p.m. on Tuesday in McAlester, Okla., Clayton Lockett started kicking his leg, then twitching, then writhing and moaning in agony, and everyone watching knew something had gone terribly wrong. Mr. Lockett, a convicted murderer, was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, about to be executed by lethal injection, but the untested combination of a sedative and a paralyzing agent had failed.

According to an eyewitness account by a reporter for The Tulsa World, Mr. Lockett tried to raise himself up, mumbled the word “man,” and was in obvious pain. Officials hastily closed the blinds on the chamber and told reporters that the execution had been stopped because of a “vein failure.” But at 7:06, the inmate was pronounced dead of a heart attack.

This horrific scene — the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment — should never have happened. The Oklahoma Supreme Court tried to stop it last week, concerned that the state refused to reveal the origin of the deadly cocktail. But several lawmakers threatened to impeach the justices, and Gov. Mary Fallin blindly ignored the warning signs and ordered the execution to proceed. (She said it was outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which normally deals with civil matters.)

On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after her employees tortured a man to death, Ms. Fallin suddenly showed an interest in execution procedures. She ordered an independent review of the injection protocol, halting further state killings until the investigation is complete.

She should have gone much further and followed other governors and legislatures in banning executions, recognizing that the American administration of death does not function. Mr. Lockett’s ordeal, along with the botched deaths of other inmates around the country, showed there is no reliable and humane method of execution. As Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon said in 2011: “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”

Seven states have put the death penalty on hold over the last five years because of issues of fairness or methods; another 11 states are debating the issue. Even in states where the death penalty is applied, the number of executions has fallen sharply since 2009. Republicans in Oklahoma seemed so eager to buck this tide that they ignored what happened during a January execution, when an inmate named Michael Lee Wilson said “I feel my whole body burning” just before the drugs killed him.

Many drug companies, fearful of political attack, have stopped supplying the means of execution, and states determined to inflict the maximum punishment have turned to questionable sources like compounding pharmacies for lethal chemicals. Oklahoma, among other states, won’t say where it is getting the drugs, leading one state judge to say “I do not think this is even a close call” that the execution procedures are unconstitutional.

The medieval mechanics of death, though, are hardly the only reason that states are abandoning the practice. There is growing evidence that capital sentences are handed out in an arbitrary and racially biased way, often to innocent victims. A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that more than 4 percent of all death-row defendants are innocent.

The authors reached that figure by extrapolating from the growing number of exonerations of death-row inmates. They accused Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court of miscalculating when he wrote in 2007 that convictions in American courts have only a 0.027 percent error rate. “That would be comforting, if true,” the study says. “In fact, the claim is silly.” Even more disturbing, the report says, is the stark reality for innocent people sentenced to death: most will never be exonerated.

Jurists and lawmakers are increasingly aware that an immediate moratorium on death is the only civilized response to this arbitrary cruelty. As Wallace Carson Jr., the former chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, put it recently, “the exceptional cost of death penalty cases and the seemingly haphazard selection of which cases deserve the death penalty outweigh any perceived public benefit of this sanction.”

The “exceptional cost” refers not just to dollars and cents. It refers to the moral diminishment of the United States when a man dies by the hasty hand of government, writhing in pain.


A version of this editorial appears in print on May 1, 2014,

on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline:

State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma.

State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma,






Ohio Plans to Try Again

as Execution Goes Wrong


September 17, 2009
The New York Times


CINCINNATI — The State of Ohio plans to try again next week to execute a convicted rapist-murderer, after a team of technicians spent two hours on Tuesday in an unsuccessful effort to inject him with lethal drugs.

This is the first time an execution by lethal injection in the United States has failed and then been rescheduled, according to Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, in Washington.

The only similar case in modern times, Mr. Dieter said, occurred in Louisiana in 1946, when electric shock failed to kill a convicted murderer, Willie Francis. He was electrocuted the next year, after the United States Supreme Court ruled that executing a prisoner in the wake of a failed first attempt was constitutional.

Tuesday’s one-week postponement was ordered by Gov. Ted Strickland after he was alerted by the Ohio corrections department that technicians at the state prison in Lucasville, some 70 miles east of Cincinnati, had struggled for more than two hours to find a suitable vein in either the arms or the legs of the inmate, Romell Broom, 53.

In a log reviewed by The Associated Press, the executioners attributed their troubles to past intravenous drug use by Mr. Broom. Amanda Wurst, a spokeswoman for the governor, said that Mr. Broom had once told officials he had been an IV drug user but that he had later recanted. His lawyers said they were not aware of any IV drug use.

Mr. Broom was convicted of the 1984 abduction, rape and killing of Tryna Middleton, 14, who had been walking home from a football game in Cleveland with two friends.

His lawyers described what happened Tuesday as torture and said they would try to block the execution. One of them, Adele Shank, said: “He survived this execution attempt, and they really can’t do it again. It was cruel and unusual punishment.”

Ms. Shank watched Tuesday’s procedure on closed-circuit television. “I could see him on the screen,” she said, “and it was apparent to me that he was wincing with pain.”

The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that the state must abolish lethal injection.

“This is the third screwed-up execution in three years,” said Jeffrey M. Gamso of the A.C.L.U. of Ohio. “They keep tweaking their protocol, but it takes more than tweaks. They don’t know how to do this competently, and they need to stop.”

In referring to two previous troubled executions in Ohio, Mr. Gamso was speaking of the death of Joseph Clark in 2006, delayed more than an hour because of problems with IV placement, and the 2007 execution of Christopher Newton, also delayed more than an hour while technicians tried at least 10 times to insert the IV.

The director of the state corrections department, Terry J. Collins, said he and his staff were seeking the advice of doctors and others to plan for a successful execution next Tuesday.

“I won’t have discussions about ‘what if it doesn’t work next week’ at this point,” Mr. Collins said, “because I have confidence that my team will be able to do its job.”

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty, said problems with veins were inevitable in lethal injection by IV.

Mr. Scheidegger said he favored execution methods involving intramuscular injection or a return to gas chambers, but with a poison other than cyanide, which was long under attack because of the suffering it can inflict.

Mr. Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that given the likelihood of legal appeals, there was little chance that Mr. Broom would be put to death next Tuesday.

“The question of whether this is still an acceptable punishment in our society,” he said of executions generally, “is compounded by this mistake.”


John Schwartz

contributed reporting from New York.

Ohio Plans to Try Again as Execution Goes Wrong,










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