[JURIST] Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday shortly after doctors called off a failed attempt to execute him using a new cocktail of lethal injection drugs. According to the state corrections department, 13 minutes after administering [Reuters report] the drug cocktail Lockett regained some level of consciousness at which point doctors called off the execution. Locket died 27 minutes later. Lockett’s botched execution came less than a week after the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the constitutional rights of two inmates, including Lockett, were not violated by keeping the sources of the lethal injection drugs secret. The other inmate, Charles Warner, who was scheduled to be executed with the same cocktail two hours after Lockett, was granted a 14-day stay of execution. Oklahoma was forced to implement a new cocktail of chemicals earlier this year because of drug shortages due to sales bans. Former Texas governor Mark White in a press release [text] issued Wednesday condemned Oklahoma’s attempted execution calling it “the worst—chapter thus far in the practice of human experimentation in the execution of prisoners by lethal injection.” Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official website] has promised a full review of the state’s execution protocols.
The shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs in the US has forced a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols, increasing the debate and controversy surrounding the death penalty in the US. Earlier this month a federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] challenging a bill intended to protect the identities of individuals who provide direct support for the administration of the death penalty may continue. In February an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy agreed [JURIST report] not to provide a drug necessary to execute a Missouri inmate. Also in February the Supreme Court of Georgia heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of a law allowing the state to withhold the identities of the manufacturers of Georgia’s lethal injection drugs. That same week, a federal judge in Louisiana scheduled [JURIST report] a trial to review the constitutionality of the state’s new execution protocol, which delayed the prisoner’s execution for 90 days.