We're a hawk on the issues.

Unconstitutional? Oklahoma’s Botched Execution Raises Questions About Secret Death Drug Protocols

Oklahoma’s execution drug secrecy rules are coming under attack after a scheduled double execution went horribly wrong.

Just weeks before the planned execution of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, Oklahoma’s Assistant District Attorney John Hadden refused to disclose the source of the drugs the state planned to use to execute the two men.

“This information is irrelevant to your clients and disclosure could lead to harassment or intimidation which will have a chilling effect on the state’s ability to acquire these drugs for future executions,” Hadden wrote in a statement defending the state’s decision not to disclose the source despite a judge’s ruling that it violated the inmate’s constitutional rights.

Then, on Tuesday night, Oklahoma decided to go ahead with the execution of both men, despite lingering concerns about the drugs and their efficacy and without ever revealing the drugs’ makers.

Just minutes into the first execution, after Lockett was strapped to the gurney and the drugs were injected, something went wrong.

According to Robert Patton of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, “There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect, so the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown,” Patton explained.

An AP reporter present for the execution also reported that after Lockett had been declared unconscious he started, “breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow,” just minutes after being declared unconscious.

Minutes later, the execution was called off. Lockett died less than an hour later due to an apparent heart attack. He never regained consciousness again.

Warner, the second man set to die from the same cocktail, received a 14 day stay of execution, pending a review of execution procedures.

The attorney for Charles Warner witnessed Lockett’s execution and said that the botched execution was exactly what they feared when they called for transparency in Oklahoma’s execution methods.

“This is the thing we never wanted to happen,” Madeline Cohen said“We never want this to happen…It was like watching somebody be tortured. It was the farthest thing from a Constitutional execution that we can imagine.”

Photo Credit: DOC Photo

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.