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Autopsy Reveals Human Error Was to Blame for Clayton Lockett’s Botched Execution

The botched execution of Clayton Lockett sparked a national debate about lethal injection and the secretive drug cocktails used to kill the condemned. Now an independent autopsy has revealed it was human error – not drug failure – that caused the execution to go so wrong.

According to the preliminary autopsy report by Dr. Joseph Cohen, there were “skin punctures on the extremities and right and left femoral areas” pointing to the fact that the executioners tried several times to insert the IV catheter into the condemned man’s body without success.

The autopsy also showed  when the IV was finally inserted, it did not actually go completely into the femoral artery and instead only nicked it, leaving the drugs to be painfully absorbed into the muscle rather than directly into the bloodstream.

The prolonged death of Lockett, then, according to the report, was most likely due to the executioner’s error, a mistake that happens far more often than most Americans realize.

In 2009, for example, Romell Broom endured two hours on the execution gurney in Ohio while his executioners tried in vain to correctly insert the IV catheter. Broom grew so tired of being poked and prodded he even tried to help those putting him to death find a vein, but to no avail.

Eventually, the execution was called off and Broom became the only inmate to survive an execution by lethal injection in America. (He has been re-sentenced to die this year).

In another case in 2005 in Florida, Stanley William’s veins collapsed after he was repeated stuck and the catheter wrongly inserted, leading to a much more painful and prolonged death than usual.

All and all, since 2000, at least 13 executions have been botched due to human error, many because the execution team simply lacks the skill to get it right.

In fact the problem is so grave that even the ‘inventor’ of modern lethal injections has spoken out about how lethal injections are being conducted in America today, cautioning about the ‘idiots’ left to dish out the states’ ultimate punishment.

“It never occurred to me when we set this up that we’d have complete idiots administering the drugs,” Jay Chapman said in 2007 to the New York Times, calling for the states to rethink who is performing the death procedures and how well they are trained to perform the task at hand.

Photo Credit: Police File Photo (Clayton Lockett)

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.