Oklahoma Inmate Writhes in Pain During Botched Execution, Then Dies of Heart Attack

| by Allison Geller

Things didn’t go according to plan as Clayton Lockett lay on the gurney. All were expecting a peaceful death for the Oklahoma inmate on death row. Instead, Lockett began to writhe in pain not long after being administered a cocktail of three lethal drugs.

It took 10 minutes for Lockett to be declared unconscious. But three minutes later, Lockett began writhing and clenching his teeth, the Associated Press reports. According to a minute-by-minute account by Tulsa World, he mumbled incoherently, including the word “man.”

As Lockett thrashed and strained to lift his head from the pillow, prison officials lowered the blinds to block the disturbing scene from those in the viewing gallery. Then the state’s top prison official decided to cut short the execution.

Lockett’s vein “blew,” officials said, and the drugs didn’t penetrate his system correctly.

The inmate died shortly after. The 38-year-old’s official cause of death was a heart attack, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

"It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched," said Lockett's attorney, David Autry.

Lockett, a four-time felon, was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, who discovered him and two accomplices robbing a home. He then watched as the other two men buried her alive.

The death penalty has been the subject of much controversy and litigation, with opponents of capital punishment claiming it qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. States like Oklahoma that still have the death penalty remain tight-lipped about the source of the drugs used, particularly as more and more pharmaceutical companies stop selling them.

When an Oklahoma inmate’s family filed a civil rights suit in January after a man made snorting and gasping sounds during his execution, the state responded by upping the dosage of drugs.

"They should have anticipated possible problems with an untried execution protocol," Autry said.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin ordered a 14-day stay of execution for another inmate, who was scheduled to die two hours after Lockett, and ordered the state's Department of Corrections to conduct a "full review of Oklahoma's execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening's execution."

Sources: Associated Press, Tulsa World