Despite repeated warnings and protest, the state of Oklahoma went ahead with its controversial use of untested lethal injection drugs on Tuesday night that resulted in the "horrific" death of convicted killer Clayton Lockett who "writhed" in pain, "clenched his teeth" and later died from a massive heart attack brougt on by the state-administered drugs.
After seeing the drugs were not working as intended, the prison officials "halted" the execution but it was too late for Lockett.
"It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched," said Lockett's attorney, David Autry.
Due to the incident, the subsequent execution of Charles Warner, scheduled to receive the same dose of lethal drugs just two hours after Lockett, was postponed. Warner's lawyer, Madeline Cohen, condemned state prison and government officials for the ordeal and said the horrific episode of Lockett's execution amounted to torture by the state of Oklahoma.
"After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight's lethal injection procedures, tonight Clayton Lockett was tortured to death," she said.
Opponents of the death penalty say the recent controversy over the drugs that states are choosing to use in their executions has revealed the deep cruelty inherent in all state-sanctioned murder.
"After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight's lethal injection procedures, tonight Clayton Lockett was tortured to death." —Madeline Cohen, lawyer
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors death penalty cases and policy nationwide, told the Guardian: "This could be a real turning point in the whole debate as people get disgusted by this sort of thing."
The Associated Press adds:
The problems with the execution are likely to fuel more debate about the ability of states to administer lethal injections that meet the U.S. Constitution's requirement they be neither cruel nor unusual punishment. That question has drawn renewed attention from defense attorneys and death penalty opponents in recent months, as several states scrambled to find new sources of execution drugs because drugmakers that oppose capital punishment — many based in Europe — have stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.
Defense attorneys have unsuccessfully challenged several states' policies of shielding the identities of the new sources of their execution drugs. Missouri and Texas, like Oklahoma, have both refused to reveal their sources, but both of those states have since successfully carried out executions with their new supplies.
Tuesday was the first time Oklahoma used the drug midazolam as the first element in its execution drug combination. Other states have used it before; Florida administers 500 milligrams of midazolam as part of its three-drug combination. Oklahoma used 100 milligrams of that drug.