The Washington Post

Taser was used on death-row inmate on morning of his botched execution

With capital punishment dominating headlines, PostTV looks at the latest statistics on the death penalty in the United States, and in the 21 other countries that executed inmates in 2013. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

The inmate who died of an apparent heart attack after a botched execution this week was Tasered the morning of his execution, and doctors inserted an IV to administer lethal drugs into his groin after being unable to locate a usable vein in his arms, legs or feet, authorities said Thursday.

Prisons chief Robert Patton also disclosed in a letter to Oklahoma’s governor that death-row inmate Clayton Lockett deliberately cut his right arm before sunrise Tuesday and refused to be restrained or to eat any food in the hours leading up to his death.

Patton recommended to Gov. Mary Fallin (R) that all executions in the state be put on hold indefinitely and called for an outside review of the state’s capital punishment procedures.

The recommendation comes as Oklahoma state officials attempt to identify what went wrong with the execution of Lockett, 38, who was convicted of raping, shooting and ordering the live burial of a 17-year-old girl. Lockett writhed and convulsed as a toxic drug cocktail was administered and then died after the execution was called off.

Fallin has ordered an internal review of the case to be conducted by the public safety commissioner. She also postponed the execution of another inmate, Charles Warner, who had been scheduled to die Tuesday evening after Lockett.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, called Lockett’s death “torturous” and said no more executions should take place until a full investigation is conducted.

According to Patton’s outline of events:

An emergency response team went to Lockett’s cell early Tuesday to take him for mandatory X-rays. He refused to be restrained and was Tasered before being taken to a medical facility, where it was discovered that he had a self-inflicted cut to his right arm.

Lockett was then checked on every 15 minutes. He refused to visit with his attorneys or to eat any food that was brought to him. The report does not say whether he drank any liquids.

At 5:22 p.m., Lockett was placed on the execution table and restrained. A phlebotomist could not locate a viable vein elsewhere, and a doctor placed the IV in his groin.

At 6:23 p.m., the drug midazolam was administered intravenously. Seven minutes later, a doctor said Lockett was still conscious. Three minutes later, Lockett was unconscious, and vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride were administered.

At 6:42 p.m., the shades were lowered. Witnesses said Lockett had appeared to be conscious in the previous few minutes and was licking his lips, writhing and convulsing.

According to the account, the doctor reported that the vein where Lockett’s IV was inserted had collapsed and that the drugs either dripped out or were absorbed by his tissues, or possibly both.

Patton, who was present at the execution, asked the doctor whether enough drugs had been administered to kill Lockett; the doctor said no. Patton then asked whether another vein was available and whether there were enough drugs remaining to continue; the doctor said no to both questions. The doctor then said Lockett had a faint heartbeat and was unconscious.

Patton called off the execution under authority granted by Fallin; Lockett died 10 minutes later.

Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.

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