Mary Fallin: Review Of Botched Execution Would Be 'Effective And Also Appropriate'

Apr 30, 2014 | Updated Apr 30, 2014

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) gave a statement Wednesday on the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who died of a heart attack Tuesday night after complications occurred during the execution procedure.

While Fallin said she believes "the legal process worked," she said she thinks a review of the execution would be "effective and also appropriate."

Fallin said an independent review of the execution would examine three things: Lockett's cause of death; whether or not the Department of Corrects followed correct protocol during Lockett's execution; and whether any improvements can be made on the state's execution protocol.

Below, more from the AP:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin named a member of her Cabinet on Wednesday to lead a review of how the state conducts executions after a botched procedure that the White House said fell short of the humane standards required.

Fallin said Clayton Lockett, who had an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the start of an execution in which the state was using a new drug combination for the first time, had his day in court.

"I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment to those who commit heinous crimes against their fellow men and women," Fallin said. "However, I also believe the state needs to be certain of its protocols and its procedures for executions and that they work."

Lockett convulsed violently and tried to lift his head after a doctor declared him unconscious, and prison officials halted the execution. Fallin said "an independent review of the Department of Corrections procedures would be effective and also appropriate."

The governor said the review, to be led by Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, will focus on Lockett's cause of death, noting that the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner has authorized an independent pathologist to make that determination. The review will also look at whether the department followed the current protocol correctly and will also include recommendations for future executions.

Fallin also said a stay for Charles Warner, who had been scheduled to die two hours after Lockett, is in place until May 13. She said Warner's execution will be further delayed if the independent review is not complete by then.

Warner's attorney immediately raised objections to the investigation being led by a member of Fallin's cabinet.

"I don't consider that to be an independent investigation," said attorney Madeline Cohen.

Lockett, 38, had been declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of three drugs in the state's new lethal injection combination was administered Tuesday evening. Three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head. Officials later blamed a ruptured vein for the problems with the execution, which 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.

The blinds eventually were lowered to prevent those in the viewing gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber, and the state's top prison official later called a halt to the proceedings. Lockett died of a heart attack shortly thereafter, the Department of Corrections said.

Most executions in Oklahoma, which used different fast-acting barbiturates, were completed and the inmate declared dead within about 10 minutes of the start of the procedure.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama believes that evidence suggests the death penalty does little to deter crime, but that some crimes are so heinous that the death penalty is merited.

Lockett, a four-time felon, was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999. Neiman and a friend had interrupted the men as they robbed a home.

"But it's also the case that we have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely," Carney said. "Everyone would recognize this case fell short of this standard."

Questions about execution procedures have 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 U.S. prisons and corrections departments.

Defense attorneys have unsuccessfully challenged several states' policies of shielding the identities of the source of their execution drugs. Missouri and Texas, like Oklahoma, have both refused to reveal their sources and both of those states have carried out executions with their new supplies.

The medical examiner's office, which said earlier Wednesday that the autopsy had begun, later said only the toxicology portion of the autopsy had been started and that the surgical portion will be conducted by an independent pathologist.

Medical examiner's spokeswoman Amy Elliott said the autopsy on Lockett would include an examination of the injection sites on his arms and a toxicology report to determine what drugs were in his system. Elliott said and it could take two to four months to complete the toxicology report.

Tuesday was the first time Oklahoma used the sedative 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.

Oklahoma's Attorney General Scott Pruitt had said about a month ago that the lower dosage would ensure the state maintains an adequate supply for future executions. Pruitt said that the information the state had indicated that at that dose, "you go to sleep doggone quick."

In Ohio, the January execution of an inmate who made snorting and gasping sounds led to a civil rights lawsuit by his family and calls for a moratorium. That execution also used the drug midazolam, but in a lower dosage than Oklahoma used and as part of a two-drug combination. The state has stood by the execution but said Monday that it's boosting the dosages of its lethal injection drugs.

Lockett and Warner had sued the state for refusing to disclose details about the execution drugs, including where Oklahoma obtained them. The case, filed as a civil matter, placed Oklahoma's two highest courts at odds. The state Supreme Court later dismissed the inmates' claim that they were entitled to know the source of the drugs.

This story has been updated with more from the AP.

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.