Society

Oklahoma Ups Execution Drugs Fivefold, Reduces Media Witnesses After Botched Lethal Injection

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Oklahoma has modified its execution procedure in the wake of the botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, who writhed in pain for 43 minutes before suffering cardiac arrest.

The state will continue to use the controversial sedative midazolam, which was also used in flawed executions in Arizona and Ohio this year, the Wall Street Journal reported. But Oklahoma officials will increase the lethal dose by five.

The number of media witness allowed at an execution will be reduced from 12 to five.

New requirements also call for better training of prison staff and members of the execution team. Contingency plans will be put in place in case of problems with equipment or issues with the inmate’s medical condition.

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A Department of Public Safety investigation ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) blamed Lockett’s prolonged death on poor placement of an intravenous line to his groin and the warden’s decision to cover the IV site with a sheet.

Critics who believe the execution amounted to cruel and unusual punishment blame the drug for the botched procedure.

Jonathan Groner, professor of surgery at Ohio State University College of Medicine, told the MailOnline that the sedative is problematic.

“If you have midazolam he may not respond if he’s uncomfortable,” Groner said.

Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire was executed in January using a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. He “snorted and gasped” for 26 minutes before his death.

There are 21 death-row inmates in the state of Oklahoma who are suing the Department of Correction to block their execution.

Their attorney Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich said the new state protocols don’t address their concerns.

"We still don't know what went wrong with Mr. Lockett's execution," Mr. Baich told the Journal. "Discovery and fact-finding by the federal courts will address those issues.”

"The prisoners still don't have access to information about the source of the drugs, the qualifications of the executioners, or how the state came up with the different drug combinations,” he said.

Baich said the reduction of media witnesses "reduces public accountability and makes the process less transparent."

The execution of Oklahoma inmate Charles Warner is scheduled to on Nov. 13, followed by Richard Glossip on Nov. 12.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Daily Mail

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Steven Depolo, Wikimedia Commons