Oklahoma Prison Chief Calls for Execution Review

Updated: 05/01/2014 3:21 PM
Created: 05/01/2014 5:43 AM

The head of Oklahoma's Department of Corrections said in a letter to the governor Thursday that the state must change its execution procedures to allow for more oversight after an inmate suffered an agonizing death this week as the state tried to put him to death.
Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack 10 minutes after prisons director Robert Patton halted the execution. A second execution set for Tuesday night was initially rescheduled for May 13, but Patton called Thursday for an indefinite stay.
In his letter to the governor, Patton said it was wrong to leave "all responsibility and decision-making" to the warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, where executions are carried out.
"Those decisions should rest on upper management and ultimately on the Director of Corrections," Patton wrote in a four-page letter detailing Lockett's last day. He shared the letter at a Board of Corrections meeting Thursday.
The director said the state should:
-Conduct a full review of execution procedures, and he said he intended to contact other states to ensure Oklahoma "adopts proven standards."
-Give Warner an indefinite stay rather than the two-week reprieve Gov. Mary Fallin gave him after Lockett's botched execution. Once new protocols are written, Patton said, "staff will require extensive training."
-Allow an external review of what went wrong at Lockett's execution. "While I have complete confidence in the abilities of my Inspector General and his staff, I believe the report will be perceived as more credible if conducted by an external entity," Patton said.
Fallin had announced similar steps Wednesday, including asking another member of her cabinet to review Corrections Department procedures.
"We look forward to a thorough review and a rewrite of the protocols for the state of Oklahoma in carrying out executions," Patton said after the letter was released. "I do not know how long that investigation will take. There is no timeline for the review, nor is there a timeline for the rewrite of the protocols. There is an active warrant in two weeks for an execution. I do not know if that will be completed by that time."
He refused to answer additional questions about the execution.
Lockett's execution Tuesday was to have started at 6 p.m., but a phlebotomist couldn't find a suitable place for an intravenous line on Lockett's arms, legs, feet and neck. Ultimately, he placed an IV line at Lockett's groin and covered the area with a sheet, the letter said.
The execution started at 6:23 p.m. but by 6:44 p.m., Lockett hadn't died. Typically inmates die in about 10 minutes.
According to a timeline accompanying Patton's letter to Fallin, a doctor attending the execution said that, after a vein collapsed, Lockett did not absorb a fatal dose of three execution drugs and the state didn't have enough on hand to try again.
Patton stopped the execution at 6:56 p.m., but 10 minutes later Lockett apparently suffered a massive heart attack. Autopsy results are pending.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

This June 29, 2011 file photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Clayton Lockett.
Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Lydia Polley, speaks to the media regarding the state's death penalty from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.
Photo: AP/Alonzo Adams

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