Clayton Lockett's Botched Execution Is Sick And Depressing, But Not Surprising. Here's Why.

Apr 30, 2014 | Updated Apr 30, 2014

The execution of Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer in Oklahoma, ended in distressing fashion Tuesday, when he was declared dead from a fatal heart attack a full 43 minutes after being administered the first injection in what was supposed to be a lethal three-drug cocktail.

Witnesses reported seeing Lockett breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and struggling to lift his head and even speak during the ordeal. Officials with Oklahoma's Department of Corrections say the execution was complicated when Lockett's vein "exploded," which some have said suggests an improper injection -- not necessarily the drugs themselves -- was to blame for the botched process.

Reviewing a detailed account of someone's killing is never likely to be comfortable, but the sordid details of Lockett's execution are particularly difficult to read. While the cruel manner in which Lockett died is upsetting, it's sadly not surprising. As the New Republic reports, if the difficulty with the execution was caused by an improper injection, that wouldn't have been the first time.

During a 2006 execution in Ohio, an inmate took 86 minutes to die after attending medical staff had difficulty finding a vein. In a 2009 incident in Ohio, an EMT tried and failed 18 times to make a successful injection to administer the drugs. The inmate's execution was eventually postponed, and he is still alive today.

And those incidents took place when prisons had access to effective drugs. The companies that sell those compounds are now increasingly cutting off the supply of traditional lethal injection drugs over their opposition to capital punishment. Without them, states have been forced to innovate, sometimes to disastrous effect.

In January, Ohio executed convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire by lethal injection, using a combination of untested drugs that took 25 minutes to kill him. The case led to backlash and concern among inmates and criminal justice proponents alike, both of whom fought for information into the source of the drugs, as well as their efficacy. But with states still showing a willingness to proceed with executions even when the process hasn't been thoroughly vetted or perfected, there was always a possibility that it could go horribly wrong again. The infographic below, which first appeared earlier this month before Lockett's execution, explains some of the reasons why:

Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

Also on HuffPost:

  • Lethal Injection
    Until 2010, most states used a three-drug combination: an anesthetic (pentobarbital or sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent (pancuronium bromide) to paralyze the muscle system, and a drug to stop the heart (potassium chloride). Recently, European pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell drugs to the U.S. for use in lethal injections, requiring states to find new, untested alternatives.
  • Gas Chamber
    Gas chambers, like this one pictured at the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., were first used in the U.S. in 1924. In the procedure, an inmate is sealed inside an airtight chamber which is then filled with toxic hydrogen cyanide gas. Oxygen starvation ultimately leads to death, but the inmate does not immediately lose consciousness.
  • Electric Chair
    The first electric chair was used in 1890. Electrodes attached to an inmate's body deliver a current of electricity. Sometimes more than one jolt is required.
  • Hanging
    Hanging was used as the primary method of execution in the U.S. until the electric chair's invention in 1890. Death is typically caused by dislocation of the vertebrae or asphyxiation, but in cases when the rope is too long, the inmate can sometimes be decapitated. If too short, the inmate can take up to 45 minutes to die.
  • Firing Squad
    This Old West-style execution method dates back to the invention of firearms. In a typical scenario in the U.S., the inmate is strapped to a chair. Five anonymous marksmen stand 20 feet away, aim rifles at the convict's heart, and shoot. One rifle is loaded with blanks.
  • Beheading
    Wikimedia Commons
    Decapitation has been used in capital punishment for thousands of years. Above is the chopping block used for beheadings at the Tower of London.
  • Guillotine
    Kauko via Wikimedia Commons
    Invented in France in the late 18th century during the French Revolution, the guillotine was designed to be an egalitarian means of execution. It severed the head more quickly and efficiently than beheading by sword.
  • Hanging, Drawing and Quartering
    Wikimedia Commons
    A punishment for men convicted of high treason, "hanging, drawing and quartering" was used in England between the 13th and 19th centuries. Men were dragged behind a horse, then hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and chopped or torn into four pieces.
  • Slow Slicing
    Carter Cutlery/Wikimedia Commons
    Also called "death by a thousand cuts," this execution method was used in China from roughly A.D. 900 until it was banned in 1905. The slicing took place for up to three days. It was used as punishment for treason and killing one's parents.
  • Boiling Alive
    Wikimedia Commons
    Death by boiling goes back to the first century A.D., and was legal in the 16th century in England as punishment for treason. This method of execution involved placing the person into a large cauldron containing a boiling liquid such as oil or water.
  • Crucifixion
    Wikimedia Commons
    Crucifixion goes back to around the 6th century B.C.used today in Sudan. For this method of execution, a person is tied or nailed to a cross and left to hang. Death is slow and painful, ranging from hours to days.
  • Burning Alive
    Pat Canova via Getty Images
    Records show societies burning criminals alive as far back as the 18 century B.C. under Hammurabi's Code of Laws in Babylonia. It has been used as punishment for sexual deviancy, witchcraft, treason and heresy.
  • Live Burial
    Antoine Wiertz/Wikimedia Commons
    Execution by burial goes back to 260 B.C. in ancient China, when 400,000 were reportedly buried alive by the Qin dynasty. Depending on the size of the coffin (assuming there is one), it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours for a person to run out of oxygen.
  • Stoning
    Wikimedia Commons
    This ancient method of execution continues to be used as punishment for adultery today.
  • Crushing By Elephant
    Wikimedia Commons
    This method was commonly used for many centuries in South and Southeast Asia, in which an elephant would crush and dismember convicts as a punishment for treason.
  • Flaying
    Michelangelo/Wikimedia Commons
    Records show flaying, the removal of skin from the body, was used as far back as the 9th century B.C.
  • Impalement
    Wikimedia Commons
    Records show this execution practice used as far back as the 18th century B.C., where a person is penetrated through the center of their body with a stake or pole.