How Oklahoma Botched Clayton Lockett Execution

Clayton Lockett
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Clayton Lockett
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

At first Oklahoma prison officials suspected that a new drug combination caused Clayton Lockett to writhe in pain and clench his teeth during a botched execution. But a new autopsy report reveals that the IV was improperly placed by prison workers who may not have been properly trained, according to ThinkProgress.


Lockett, 38, died of a massive heart attack, igniting a national debate about the ethics of the death penalty, the report says. Initially, attention was focused on Oklahoma’s use of a secret combination of untested drugs in its lethal injections, the report says.

But a new independent autopsy report by forensic pathologist Joseph Cohen that was ordered by Lockett’s attorneys found that an ineffective cocktail of lethal drugs was not the problem.

“In fact, the IV pumping the drugs into Lockett’s body was improperly placed by individuals who may not have been trained about how to insert it correctly,” ThinkProgress reports.

The preliminary findings also show that there were “’skin punctures on the extremities and right and left femoral areas’ of Lockett’s body, which means that the execution team made several failed attempts to place the IV in Lockett’s groin area,” the report says.

Workers eventually managed to insert the IV, the report says, but the autopsy says it only “nicked” the inmate’s femoral vein. As a result, the cocktail was absorbed into his muscle, the report says.

Oklahoma law stipulates that lethal injections require a “licensed/certified health care specialist in IV insertion,” the report says.

Read more at ThinkProgress.