An execution in Oklahoma that employed a new drug combination went horribly wrong, leaving the inmate squirming and struggling on the table, forcing prison officials to stop the procedure Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.
Not that it mattered.
The inmate, Clayton Lockett, died about a half-hour later of an apparent heart attack.
According to the AP, the execution seemed to be going as planned with the 38-year-old convict being declared unconscious about 10 minutes after the first drug in Oklahoma’s new lethal cocktail was injected. However, minutes later the inmate began to writhe and breathe heavily, clenching his teeth and trying to lift his head off the pillow of the gurney.
“It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched,” Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, said.
The blinds were lowered eventually so that those witnessing the execution could no longer see what was happening, and prison officials called off the execution shortly afterward. However, the damage was apparently irreversible.
The messy execution comes at a time of debate about states’ methods of execution and whether they meet the Constitution’s requirement that they be neither cruel nor unusual punishment. States also have been struggling to attain suitable drugs for execution, with many drug makers that oppose the death penalty—most of them European—refusing to sell to prisons.
Tuesday’s incident was the first time that Oklahoma had used the drug midazolam as the first in its combination of lethal drugs used in execution. Oklahoma, along with a few other states, has refused to say from where it gets its supply.
“They should have anticipated possible problems with an untried execution protocol,” Autry said. “Obviously the whole thing was gummed up and botched from beginning to end. Halting the execution obviously did Lockett no good.”