The state’s top prison official said Thursday condemned convict Clayton Lockett purposely cut himself on the arm hours before his scheduled execution, raising questions about whether blood loss from the wound could have contributed to the botched lethal drug procedure.
Robert Patton, director of the Department of Corrections, did not speculate what motivated Lockett nor did Patton describe what Lockett used to cut his right arm. He recommended an outside investigation into the circumstances preceding discovery of the laceration and the protocol employed for his execution.
In the meantime, he urged the Oklahoma Court of Appeals to issue an indefinite stay on further executions until new protocols can be implemented and extensive staff training completed. He said that could take weeks.
“The current protocol puts all responsibility and decision-making on the warden at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary,” said Patton. “Those decisions should rest on upper management and ultimately on the Director of Corrections.”
During a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mary Fallin said she appreciated the Department of Corrections giving more “clarity to the circumstances” by issuing the report, “giving us more information that the public, frankly, didn’t know. That I didn't know.”
But she said the planned May 13 execution of Charles Warner would continue unless more time was needed for the investigation. She said she could authorize a stay of up to 60 days.
Fallin said Lockett’s body has been sent to an independent pathologist in Dallas to better determine what ultimately caused his death.
Lockett was declared dead Tuesday evening following a bungled execution attempt at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. The Department of Corrections said Lockett died of an apparent heart attack after the execution attempt failed.
The Department of Corrections initially refused to release further information on the matter Wednesday, and Thursday before making public a copy of Patton’s letter to the governor.
The timeline indicates Lockett was tasered by a prison special response team at about 6 a.m. Tuesday after he refused to be restrained for an escort to a medical unit for X-rays as part of the execution protocol.
A self-inflicted laceration to his right arm was found afterwards in the prison’s H Unit medical room, where Lockett had been taken, the Department of Corrections reported.
According to the timeline, Lockett was then transported by vehicle to the prison’s medical facility. Medical personal treated Lockett for the laceration and checked him every 15 minutes. Three members of the prison’s cell watch team were assigned for continuous observation, the letter states.
By 8:15 a.m., a physician assistant examined Lockett and determined no sutures were needed, and he was returned to an isolation cell where he was checked on every 15 minutes.
Lockett repeatedly refused a visit from his attorneys and refused a food tray.
Lockett was escorted from the holding cell to the execution chamber by OSP Warden Anita Trammell and the restraint team, where he was restrained and placed on the execution chamber at 5:22 p.m.
But when it came time for the execution, none of the veins in his arms, legs or feet could be used for the IV to administer the lethal injection, according to the timeline in the letter.
A phlebotomist entered the execution chamber to determine the appropriate placement for the IV, the letter states.
After examining Lockett’s left and right arms, left and right legs and both feet for a viable insertion point, “no viable point of entry was discovered,” the letter states.
The doctor then examined Lockett’s neck and then groin area, according to the letter.
Eventually, Lockett’s groin was covered, after the site was chosen for the IV, and the execution began as shades to the execution area were raised.
The timeline also indicates the sedative midazolam was administered at 6:23 p.m. Tuesday, and the next two drugs, vecuronium bromide (a paralytic) and potassium chloride (which stops the heart) were administered at 6:33 p.m. after a doctor determined Lockett was unconscious. But at 6:42 p.m., shades to the execution chamber were lowered, the doctor checked the IV insertion site, and at 6:56 p.m. the doctor reported a “blood vein had collapsed and drugs had either leaked in the tissue, leaked out or both,” the letter states.
Trammell immediately informed Patton, according to the letter.
When the doctor told the director that enough drugs had not been administered to cause death, another vein was not available and not enough drugs remained, Patton asked about Clayton’s condition.
“The director asked the condition of the offender, the warden responded the doctor was checking the offender’s heart beat and found a faint heart beat and the offender was unconscious,” the letter states. Patton called off the execution at 6:56 p.m.
The DOC letter states Lockett was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m., 10 minutes after Patton stopped the execution.
CNHI CAPITOL Bureau Chief Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report. Editor Kandra Wells and James Beaty report for McAlester News-Capital.