He warned her one last time, but she insisted she would go to the police. He pulled the trigger. The shot sent her spinning to the ground. The gun jammed; he cleared it and fired at her again. Lockett was arrested three days later, a Sunday. Mark Gibson, the district attorney who would prosecute him, went to the jail that night because Lockett wanted to give a statement. Lockett smoked a cigarette and showed no remorse as he confessed. In the execution chamber, Lockett was belted to the gurney. To his left, beige blinds covered the windows to the viewing area. Soon, shadows would be visible as the seats on the other side filled up.
There was so much media interest in his execution that the prison had had to draw names to decide which reporters could attend. A clock on the wall read The execution was scheduled to begin at 6 p. Lockett could expect to be dead within about 45 minutes. They often use three drugs. The first is an anesthetic, to render the prisoner unconscious. The second is a paralytic.
The third, potassium chloride, stops the heart. In many cases, the person responsible for selecting the drugs has no medical training. Sometimes that person is a lawyer—a state attorney general or an attorney for the prison. These officials base their confidence that a certain drug will work largely on the fact that it has seemed to work in the past. So naturally, they prefer not to experiment with new drugs.
In recent years, however, they have been forced to do so. The problems began at a pharmaceutical plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The Food and Drug Administration discovered that some of the drugs made there were contaminated and in April sent the manufacturer, Hospira, a warning letter.
Hospira stopped producing, among other drugs, a barbiturate called sodium thiopental. No other company was approved by the FDA to make sodium thiopental, which was the anesthetic of choice for almost all of the states that carried out executions. The death penalty is legal in 32 states; 17 of them have performed an execution in the past five years. With sodium thiopental suddenly unavailable, states scrambled to find alternatives. In June of that year, officials in Georgia discovered a work-around: a small-time businessman in London named Mehdi Alavi, who sold wholesale drugs through a company called Dream Pharma, would ship sodium thiopental to them.
Georgia bought some from him, and then Arkansas did too. With Hospira offline, Alavi had the U. Arizona bought sodium thiopental from him in late September and used it the next month to execute a convicted murderer named Jeffrey Landrigan. California placed an order as well. Inside she found two desks and, in the back of the room, a single cabinet.
That was it: Dream Pharma. Alavi imported execution drugs from elsewhere in Europe and shipped them to the United States, using that cupboard in a driving school as his base of operations. Reprieve, the human-rights organization where Foa worked, wrote to the British government, arguing that supplying drugs for executions violated British law, since the death penalty is illegal in Europe. The government balked. Stopping the shipment of a drug would hamper free trade and could be harmful to patients.
It was all for executions. This time, the government agreed. England announced tighter export restrictions, which effectively banned the sale of the drug for executions. Foa then persuaded the European Commission to follow suit by amending its torture regulation. So they looked even farther afield. Officials there wanted an anesthetic that Kayem made mostly for clients in Angola: sodium thiopental. Kayem sold Nebraska vials, enough for more than 80 executions.
South Dakota bought vials. Kayem stopped selling the drug to the U. Nebraska also turned to a middleman named Chris Harris, who contacted another company, called Naari, that made sodium thiopental in India. They were not. In Oklahoma, with sodium thiopental increasingly difficult to get and an execution scheduled for December , officials decided they could no longer avoid finding a substitute. They settled on another powerful barbiturate that was more easily available: a short-term therapy for insomnia called pentobarbital, made in the U.
It worked. Oklahoma had found its solution just in time: the federal Drug Enforcement Administration was about to start raiding prisons. Since Hospira had been the only FDA-approved supplier of sodium thiopental, states that had imported it had done so illegally. Prisons had become, in effect, drug smugglers, and while the FDA may have been willing to look the other way, the DEA was not. Reprieve issued press releases, the Danish media picked up the story, The Lancet published an open letter urging the company to stop supplying executions, and shareholders threatened to divest.
Maya Foa knew that pharmaceutical companies like Lundbeck had no interest in supplying executions—the fact that their drugs are used to kill people makes for terrible publicity. But what could Lundbeck do about it? But as he began to explain his objections, the CEO interrupted. Seven months after pentobarbital was first used in an execution, Lundbeck instituted distribution controls. Departments of corrections could no longer get their second -choice anesthetic.
They were taken to the death-row law library to wait. Fretland heard a low thrumming fill the halls, the sound of inmates banging on their cell doors in tribute to the condemned. Fretland had arrived in McAlester just that day, but Oklahoma was something of a second home to her. The AP had asked her to cover the execution of Timothy Stemple, a Tulsa man convicted of killing his wife. Fretland tried to find out where the state would get the execution drugs, but she quickly ran into a roadblock: Oklahoma had passed a law less than a year earlier that made nearly every aspect of executions a state secret, including where officials obtained the drugs.
Fretland decided to follow the money. He said it would use petty cash. Could the department do that—use an account with no public oversight to buy execution drugs? She filed a series of records requests and kept asking questions. Pentobarbital was by now no longer available from Lundbeck, but Fretland learned that compounding pharmacies were copying execution drugs and selling them to prisons.
Compounding pharmacies exist to fill niche needs—for example, making a version of a drug for a patient who is allergic to an additive in the mass-market product. Part drug company, part pharmacy, they operate in a gray area with little oversight. In April , after a deadly meningitis outbreak was traced to a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts, FDA officials announced that they had inspected about 30 compounding pharmacies and found unsanitary conditions in all but one of them.
Fretland kept filing records requests, and accumulated reams of documents. She turned up e-mails from early in which state officials discussed how they should respond to their peers in Texas, who had asked for help addressing the drug shortage. That would be a good deal. Fretland also learned that in some executions, the prisoner had died of an overdose of the first drug, the anesthetic, and that the executioners had then disposed of the other two drugs by injecting them into the corpse.
Georgia had used pentobarbital from an undisclosed source in a June execution, and Fretland found e-mails from the next month proving that Oklahoma officials knew that the inmate had remained conscious for longer than he was supposed to and may have experienced severe pain. She editorialized just once. A little before 6, she and the other witnesses were taken down a long hallway. She turned a corner into the viewing area, where two tiered rows of metal folding chairs faced the death chamber. About two months earlier , Mike Oakley, the general counsel for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, had returned from vacation to find the department in a near-frenzy.
But he wanted to help his colleagues—especially the warden, whom he considered conscientious and hardworking—because he knew how much strain carrying out a death sentence put on them. He had gone into corrections, 25 years earlier, because Oklahoma was doing interesting work in mediation between victims and offenders. Now he was about to retire, and he found himself, as his swan song, developing a new execution cocktail. Oakley had to report on his progress to Robert Patton, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, first thing in the morning and again before he went home each day.
Both the attorney general, Scott Pruitt, and Governor Mary Fallin had elections coming up, and there were rumors that a Tea Party candidate might outflank Fallin on the right. Oakley believed they were worried about looking soft on crime. Fewer and fewer medical experts were willing to advise Oakley, even unofficially. In October , Florida had used a sedative called midazolam in the execution of William Happ. In a high enough dose, it should render the patient unconscious—but some experts argue that, unlike sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, midazolam cannot produce the deep, coma-like state needed to guarantee he feels no pain.
William Happ shook his head, blinked, and opened his mouth during his execution. Witnesses had no way of knowing whether he was in pain, but he appeared to remain conscious longer than offenders given sodium thiopental or pentobarbital. Ohio used midazolam in the execution of Dennis McGuire a few months later, and witnesses reported that McGuire snorted, heaved, clenched one of his fists, and gasped for air. The media had exaggerated the problems, he was told. Midazolam was also relatively easy to obtain: multiple U.
April 23 would , by coincidence, prove to be a decisive day for the Oklahoma judicial system, for Clayton Lockett, and for his legal team, including Dave Autry.
The execution of Pvt. Slovik - HISTORY
Autry is a soft-spoken man of 56 with a ponytail that hangs halfway down his back. He seems to subsist on tobacco and caffeine—ounce mini-mart coffee cups and jumbo cans of Red Bull clutter his office. Autry had represented Lockett for 11 years, since shortly after Lockett exhausted his state appeals. He felt just about ready, after nearly 30 years, to leave the high stakes and emotional toll of death-row work to younger lawyers. Clayton Lockett would be his second-to-last death-row client.
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As time winds down, a death-penalty lawyer has one goal: keep the client alive as long as possible. Supreme Court to review their cases, a last-chance effort to argue that constitutional errors had been made during trial or sentencing. They knew the Court was unlikely to review either case.
They also knew from experience that as soon as the Supreme Court declined to hear the cases, Oklahoma would set execution dates. The lawyers needed a plan they could put in motion the instant the Court decided. The simplest strategy would have been an Eighth Amendment challenge.
In that lack of information, however, perhaps they could find an opportunity. As they prepared to make this case, Oklahoma executed Michael Lee Wilson, a year-old charged with beating a co-worker to death. In January , the U. Supreme Court declined to hear the cases. The case began ping-ponging around the Oklahoma justice system. In their supplemental brief, the lawyers for Lockett and Warner argued that any of these courts had the authority to grant a stay.
The government filed an opposing brief arguing that none of the courts did. But it was in this brief, down on page eight, that Attorney General Pruitt made the stunning admission that the state did not have all the drugs it needed for the executions. Two days before Lockett was scheduled to die, he and Warner got a one-month reprieve so that the state could find drugs. A minor victory. The same day, Katie Fretland published her bombshell article exposing disturbing details about how the state handled executions. The law was indeed unconstitutional. She still believed she lacked the authority to grant a stay, but her ruling gave Lockett and Warner another chance: their lawyers could now ask the state for information about the drugs, and perhaps find the basis for a cruel-and-unusual-punishment lawsuit.
About Execution Policies
Right away, Oklahoma announced that it would appeal. By the time the appeal was resolved, Lockett and Warner would likely be dead. The case began ping-ponging again. The lawyers then turned to the Oklahoma supreme court, which told the court of criminal appeals that it did, in fact, have jurisdiction. The court of criminal appeals disagreed and again denied the stay. To Autry and the other lawyers, the judges seemed to be passing the buck back and forth while Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner waited to die.
The justices made clear that they intended to seriously contemplate the issues. The ruling seemed likely to put the executions off for a long time and give Lockett and Warner a chance of actually winning the case. Supreme Court. No court in the country could overturn the ruling. It was an emotional evening, one of the rare moments in a death-penalty case this far along when you get to celebrate. At the prison the next morning, Lockett was moved out of the isolation unit where the condemned spend their final days, and sent back to a regular cell.
That same day, a shocking reversal: Governor Mary Fallin stepped in. Autry had never heard of a governor doing something like that. Was it even legal? Could a governor just do away with a ruling by the state supreme court? The next day things got even worse: a state representative filed articles of impeachment against the five justices who had voted for the stay.
The Oklahoma supreme court bowed to the pressure. Two days after saying that it would need a long and proper debate in order to determine the constitutionality of the secrecy law, the court issued a decision: the law was fine. The stay was lifted. The national media went into a frenzy. It seemed as though everyone with even a fleeting interest in the Oklahoma justice system had come to the penitentiary. Everyone except Governor Fallin. At p. Like the three executioners, she would remain anonymous. But first she had a job to do: prepare the drugs and medical equipment, and get an IV into Lockett.
Those who participated in the execution either did not respond to requests for interviews or could not be reached. Court records provide a detailed account of what happened. And she knew the media were watching. To make matters worse, the equipment was all wrong: the saline was packed in bags instead of syringes, the drugs were in syringes that looked smaller than she was used to, and the tubing for the IV was the wrong kind. But she tried to focus on doing her job and getting everything set up on time. It meant the needle was in the vein. She asked someone to bring it to her, but the IV slipped out before she could secure it.
No luck there. So she asked the doctor to help. The doctor, Johnny Zellmer, was a last-minute substitute. Zellmer, whose name was revealed in a lawsuit following the execution and in multiple press reports, has not denied his involvement. He did not respond to requests for comment. But Zellmer thought his job would be limited to checking the offender for consciousness and pronouncing the time of death. She was clearly struggling, though.
Then Lockett turned his head, and the paramedic saw a vein in his neck pop up. She pointed it out to Zellmer. This was an odd choice. IVs in the neck are painful, and also hard to place. On the arms and legs, you can use a tourniquet to bring the veins up. You cannot do that on the neck, because a tourniquet on the neck is effectively a noose, and while this was an execution, it was not a hanging.
As Zellmer tried to get the needle into the jugular, the paramedic stuck Lockett three more times on his right arm, failing each time. The paramedic went to get a longer needle. As the warden, Anita Trammell, watched the doctor and the paramedic work on Lockett, she felt a sliver of pride for the inmate. She knew he was in pain, but she thought he was taking it like a man.
Trammell tried to make conversation to help calm him. She knew he had been a drug user. The paramedic came back and said she had no needles longer than an inch and a quarter. That presented a problem. The femoral vein lies deeper in the body than other veins, so they would ideally use a needle at least twice that length. Zellmer asked for an IO-infusion needle. The prison had no IO needle. Zellmer had only the absurdly short one-and-a-quarter-inch needle. Finally, after almost an hour, they had an IV.
Right away, the paramedic noticed a potential warning sign. Saline should have been flowing easily through the IV, but it flowed only when she propped up the line. Instead of starting over, though, she taped the IV in place.
The Execution of Maximilian
Two IVs are typically used to administer the drugs, but with the execution running way behind schedule, the doctor and the paramedic decided they would proceed with just one. Warden Trammell asked Lockett whether he needed anything. She got a Kleenex and wiped it for him. Finally, a sheet was draped over Lockett, covering him up to his chest. The execution could begin. Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by the three other liberal justices on the high court, penned a furious dissent , released at AM, ET.
Price had argued that Alabama's lethal injection protocol would cause him severe pain and asked that the state use lethal gas as an alternative. Two lower courts agreed Thursday to put the execution on hold. The court said that Price had waited too long to make his claim. In the unsigned order, the majority said that death row inmates in Alabama had the choice back in to elect to "be executed via nitrogen hypoxia" but that Price did not do so.
According to the state, Price and an accomplice wielded a sword and a knife in and stabbed Bill Lynn, a minister, to death. Where John Roberts is unlikely to compromise.
In his dissent, Breyer said that the case had become tangled in procedural matters and that two lower courts had agreed to put the execution on hold in an attempt to understand better the circumstances of the case. Breyer said that he had asked his colleagues to take no action until Friday when the justices could discuss the issue at their regularly scheduled closed-door conference. But, he said, the majority refused and in doing so it "overrides the discretionary judgment of not one, but two lower courts.
In early February, the court's conservative majority allowed the execution of Domineque Ray, who claimed his religious rights were violated because he could not have an imam with him in the execution chamber.