Not Enough Drugs Entered Inmate’s Veins in Botched Okla. Execution

A collapsed vein caused the drugs administered via injection to leak out and/or to be absorbed by body tissue, officials say.  

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Clayton Lockett

Updated Friday, May 2, 2014, 2 p.m. EDT: President Barack Obama called the botched exeuction "deeply troubling" while at a White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NBC News reports.  

Obama said that the mishandled execution raised "significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied" in the nation, adding that he planned to discuss the problems surrounding the issue—which include lethal injection itself, racial bias and inconsistent application of capital punishment—with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, NBC notes. 

Earlier:

The botched Oklahoma execution that still cost an inmate his life failed because of a collapsed vein that allowed the injected lethal cocktail to either be absorbed into his tissue or leak out instead of going directly into his bloodstream, the Associated Press reports

According to another report by the AP, it took prison officials 51 minutes to find convicted felon Clayton Lockett's vein. They were unable to find one in his arms, feet or neck and so ultimately decided to insert an IV through Lockett's groin. 

They subsequently began administering the drugs, but the vein where they injected the drugs collapsed—an issue that wasn't noticed until 21 minutes into the procedure, after all the drugs were injected, the AP reports.

"The drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both," prison Director Robert Patton wrote in a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin. "The director asked the following question, 'Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?' The doctor responded, 'No.' "

When the doctor found that Lockett still had a faint heartbeat, Patton stopped the execution, but 10 minutes later, Lockett died of an apparent heart attack.

"As the Oklahoma Department of Corrections dribbles out piecemeal information about Clayton Lockett's botched execution, they have revealed that Mr. Lockett was killed using an invasive and painful method —an IV line in his groin," said Madeline Cohen, the attorney for another inmate, Charles Warner, who was sentenced to put to death two hours after Lockett. "Placing such a femoral IV line requires highly specialized medical training and expertise."

During the Tuesday execution, Lockett was seen writhing and struggling, trying to lift his head off the pillow and apparently trying to speak. Eventually, officials lowered the blinds to prevent viewers from seeing what was going on in the execution room. 

Warner's execution was rescheduled for May 13, but given the current situation his execution has now been put on hold indefinitely, AP reports.

"If it does require more time, then yes, I think they should take more time," Fallin said Thursday, adding that she was prepared to give Warner a 60-day stay if necessary. "We need to get it right."

Patton handed over recommendations to the state, suggesting a full review of the state's execution procedures, "extensive training" for staff once protocols are agreed upon and written, an external review of Lockett's case and placing more decision-making power with the director, as opposed to the warden, AP reports.

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