When Cruel and Unusual Punishment Becomes Usual

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

The state of Oklahoma tortured a man to death this week. On Tuesday, April 29, Clayton Lockett was strapped to a gurney in the state’s execution chamber. At 6:23 p.m., before a room of witnesses that included 12 members of the media, the first of three drugs was injected into his veins. Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor at Tulsa World, was among the reporters who watched. She later reported Lockett’s ordeal, minute by minute:

“6:29 p.m. Lockett’s eyes are closed and his mouth is open slightly.

“6:31 p.m. The doctor checks Lockett’s pupils and places his hand on the inmate’s chest, shaking him slightly. ‘Mr. Lockett is not unconscious,’ [Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita] Trammell states.”

Branstetter’s detailed eyewitness account goes on:

“6:38 p.m. Lockett is grimacing, grunting and lifting his head and shoulders entirely up from the gurney. ... He appears to be in pain.”

Suddenly, the blinds were lowered, concealing the grim activity in the execution chamber. The reporters were told to exit. Lockett was pronounced dead at 7:06 pm. Branstetter said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, “We were told by the Department of Corrections last night that they haven’t even determined that this qualified as an execution, because he died of a heart attack 43 minutes later.” Most Oklahoma executions last about six minutes. Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton later explained, “His vein exploded.”

Oklahoma had never used this particular “lethal cocktail” before: midazolam, a sedative; vecuronium bromide, to stop respiration; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart. Charles Warner was scheduled to be killed on the same day as Lockett. After the horrifically botched execution of Lockett, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a 14-day stay of execution for Warner. Announcing a review of lethal injections, Fallin said on Wednesday that “the state needs to be certain of its protocols and procedures for executions and that they work.” While the review she has ordered will include an autopsy of Lockett by an independent pathologist, the overall review is being conducted by a member of her cabinet, so its independence is being questioned.

Lockett and Warner had sued Oklahoma, claiming that the secrecy surrounding the source of the drugs and the execution cocktail violated their constitutional rights. One Oklahoma judge agreed and issued a stay last month. Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately agreed and issued their own stay of execution on April 21. On April 22, Gov. Fallin, claiming the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction, ignored the stays and rescheduled the executions to April 29. The next day, the Supreme Court rescinded its stay, stating that the inmates do not, in fact, have the right to know the chemicals to be used in their execution.

“After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight’s lethal-injection procedures, tonight, Clayton Lockett was tortured to death,” said Madeline Cohen, attorney for the other condemned man, Charles Warner. “The state must disclose complete information about the drugs, including their purity, efficacy, source and the results of any testing. Until much more is known about tonight’s failed experiment of an execution, no execution can be permitted in Oklahoma.”

No hay comentarios.: