Oklahoma: Executioners need more training

2014-09-05 16:31
Clayton Lockett. (Oklahoma department of corrections, AP)

Clayton Lockett. (Oklahoma department of corrections, AP)

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Oklahoma City - Oklahoma turned to a 15-year physician and a medical technician with 40 years' experience to put Clayton Lockett to death, yet his execution still went awry.

Now, investigators are recommending more training for executioners, blaming Lockett's flawed, lengthy lethal injection on 29 April on poor placement of intravenous lines and a warden's decision that modesty was more important than monitoring Lockett for signs of trouble. The three drugs administered were not a factor, the state said.

The findings and recommendations of the governor-requested, state-handled investigation highlight the difficulty that death penalty states face in making sure the people performing a grim medical procedure are properly prepared to see it through.

"Is there some things that need to be improved? Absolutely", Oklahoma department of public safety Commissioner Michael C Thompson said on Thursday after his agency released the findings of its investigation. "We think that the IV was a big issue with the execution."

Out of modesty, no one monitored an intravenous line that had been placed in Lockett's groin before the start of his execution, a job that is the normal duty of Oklahoma state penitentiary warden Anita Trammel, who decided to cover Lockett's body, and the IV with a sheet.

"Those involved with the execution stated that they could have noticed the problem earlier if they had been monitoring the insertion site during that time", lead investigator captain Jason Holt said.

Lockett, aged 38, writhed and moaned before he was declared dead 43 minutes after the first drug was administered. Governor Mary Fallin ordered the review of the execution; most typically take 10 to 15 minutes.

The medical team, whose experience was revealed for the first time on Thursday could not find suitable veins in Lockett's arms, legs, neck and feet, leading them to insert it in his groin, the report said.

When it became apparent the execution wasn't progressing normally, the execution team pulled back the sheet and noticed a swelling larger than a golf ball near the injection site.

Thompson said no single person was to blame for the foul-ups and no charges are being considered, leading critics to charge that the report does not address accountability.

Patton, who had halted the execution, had said Lockett died of a heart attack, but autopsy results released last week said he died from the drugs.

Lockett had been convicted of shooting Stephanie Nieman, aged 19, with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999. Thompson said the victim should not be forgotten while exploring the manner of Lockett's death.

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