OK Botched Execution: Drugs Injected Into Groin

Robert Patton, Director of Oklahoma's Department of Corrections, has written a letter (available here) to the Governor with a timeline of events in the botched execution of Robert Lockett earlier this week.

First, the executioners spent 51 minutes trying to find a suitable vein in Lockett's arm. When they couldn't, they inserted an IV tap into his groin. [More...]

1727-1818...Phlebotomist enters execution chamber to determine appropriate placement for IV. The Phlebotomist examined offender Lockett's left and right arms, left and right legs, and both feet to locate a viable insertion point. No viable point of entry was located. The doctor then
examined the offender's neck and then went to the groin area.

The doctor puts an IV tap in Locket's groin. The phlebotomist leaves. The doctor administers the Midozolam, which is supposed to render him unconsciousness. 7 minutes later Lockett is still conscious. They wait 3 more minutes and say he is unconscious, so they inject the remaining two drugs, Vecuronium bromide and Potassium chloride.

8 minutes later, the phlebotomist and doctor check the IV. (There's no mention of when the phlebotomist re-entered the chamber.) Two minutes later, the doctor checks again and discovers the vein had collapsed and the IV line had become dislodged. "The drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both."

The warden asks if they have enough drugs left to finish the job and if they can find another vein. The answer is no. The warden calls off the execution. Within the next 10 minutes, Lockett had a heart attack and died.

Here's the timeline in the letter, from the point all 3 drugs had been injected:

  • 18:33...Doctor checked Offender Lockett for consciousness; offender was unconscious. Vecuronium bromide is administered intravenously. Potassium chloride is administered intravenously.
  • 18:42...Shades lowered; Phlebotomist and doctor check IV
  • 18:44-18:56...The doctor checked the IV and reported the blood vein had collapsed, and the drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both. The warden immediately contacted the director by phone and reported the information to the director. The director asked the following question, "Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?" The doctor responded, "No." The director asked, "Is another vein available, and if so, are there enough drugs remaining?" The doctor responded, "No" to both questions. The director requested clarification as to whether enough drugs had been administered to cause death. The doctor responded, "No." 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.
  • 1856...Director calls off execution under the authority granted by the governor.
  • 1906 hours...Doctor pronounced Offender Lockett deceased

Time elapsed from point the tap was inserted (18:18)until the execution was called off (18:56): 38 minutes.

Adding to this nightmare scenario is the fact that Oklahoma had never used this combination of drugs before -- they were untested -- and the state refused to reveal the source of the drugs.

Patton ends the letter with his recommendations. They include asking for an indefinite stay for the next execution, so that staff have proper time for training. He also says he supports an independent, external review of Lockett's execution.

Haven't we seen enough of "The Needle and the Damage Done"?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Should not this doctor lose his medical license? (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Chuck0 on Fri May 02, 2014 at 08:39:57 AM EST
    What became of the Hippocratic oath? "do no harm"?

    That has been my question for 2 days (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by lcdrrek on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:03:18 AM EST
    I was astounded when I heard the Director of the Oklahoma Corrections Department use the term doctor in his post execution statement.  

    I am astounded that any physician or nurse would ever involve themselves in this act.  I am also astounded that any pharmacist would provide the drugs for an execution.

    There is no way we can call ourselves a civil society if we approve of the execution of our fellow members.

    When will this stop?


    No time soon I'm afraid (none / 0) (#3)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:23:40 AM EST
    I posted about this on FaceBook.  
    Background --
    About a year ago I was so sick of the lunatic fringe on FB that I started a new page under a different name and moved all my liberal friends over to the new page. It was to this new wingnut free wall I posted about this sad affair.  
    I was stunned at the reaction.  70-80% of which ranged form indifference to hostility to the idea we should even care about this as long as the guy died.
    It was/is depressing.
    Understand, these are liberals for the most part.  Not even progressives. Every day I wade thru anti keystone anti GOP anti capitalism constant warnings about climate and income inequality etcetc.
    It was not what I expected.

    It's not suprising (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:33:29 AM EST
    since 60% of Americans still support the death penalty, and while support keeps falling, it's still way more than half the population.

    And let's face it - it's much easier for many people to have much more sympathy for Stephanie Neiman than the man who brutally murdered her. That's just human nature, so I don't see people's opinions changing on that.


    It's not a contest to see who you have more (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by ruffian on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:40:50 AM EST
    sympathy for. I've never understood that attitude.

    Ditto (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:48:03 AM EST
    If you brutally murder him for brutally murdering her what does that make you?

    Even (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:13:24 AM EST
    Even? (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by squeaky on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:14:25 AM EST
    Hardly, it makes you the same.

    Or, (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by KeysDan on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:38:47 AM EST
    maybe, even worse.

    Maybe that's what she meant by even (none / 0) (#12)
    by jondee on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:21:35 AM EST
    it's the ultimate act of empathy: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

    If it's just human nature, ... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Yman on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:59:07 AM EST
    ... why wouldn't support be much higher, and why wouldn't the death penalty be supported in all countries?

    I still find it hard to be resigned (none / 0) (#5)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:36:50 AM EST
    To be the last I the civilized world ...
    Gay rights
    Universal health care
    Capital punishment
    And on

    It is surprising (none / 0) (#13)
    by jondee on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:29:38 AM EST
    unless along with executions, you have no problem with torture, which is what occurred in the specific instance under discussion.

    The part I find most interesting (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:08:44 AM EST
    Is that almost entirely the people who don't think the government can competently conduct a two car parade are the same one who think they should be literally trusted with life or death.

    I don't disagree with you about this (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:12:17 AM EST
    Ironies abound... (none / 0) (#36)
    by Mr Natural on Sat May 03, 2014 at 01:11:46 AM EST
    Yep (none / 0) (#38)
    by lcdrrek on Sat May 03, 2014 at 08:26:46 AM EST
    That never fails to amaze me

    I'm agnostic on the DP (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:01:09 AM EST
    As are most people, is my guess. I don't think we should have it in this country as a punishment (for many reasons), but I can honestly say I will not lose sleep that this monster, who tortured a young woman and made her watch as her own grave was dug, is dead or that he didn't get to die peacefully.

    Shrug.  I expect the insults around here and I don't expect to change any minds in this crowd.  But it is interesting that, 7 years later, there are those who claim to be liberals still calling for the heads of GWB and Dick Cheney.  I guess the idea for imprisonment and torture are ok for those you don't agree with.


    The thing to lose sleep over about this.... (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by magster on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:23:21 AM EST
    is that the courts had determined to stay the execution so that the protocol and drugs and whatnot could be better determined, and that the governor and legislature were so blood-thirsty, they threatened to impeach the judges who entered the stay. The bullied judges then reversed themselves and then the state government tortured someone to death.

    When the elected officials representing the people are the ones carrying the torches and pitchforks without regard to the judgment of the courts, that should be the thing to lose sleep over.


    Yes, but (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:43:16 AM EST
    When the elected officials representing the people are the ones carrying the torches and pitchforks without regard to the judgment of the courts, that should be the thing to lose sleep over.

    I have serious doubts as to whether you feel that same way when it is a conservative court making a ruling you don't like and the elected officials act "without regard to the judgment of the courts."

    There were so many things wrong with this particular case and blame goes around to many - including the system.

    I feel particularly sorry for the family of Stephanie Neiman, who, thanks to that very bungling, will get no closure while her name fades into memory, while the man who butchered her will be seen and heard time and again and he will get elevated to a status he doesn't deserve.


    Who here ever (5.00 / 3) (#34)
    by jondee on Fri May 02, 2014 at 02:52:57 PM EST
    "called for the heads of Bush and Cheney" in the literal sense?

    That's was a bit of b.s or, prosecutorial hyperbole worthy of a Nancy Grace.  


    This may be an argument for (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by lcdrrek on Sat May 03, 2014 at 08:32:01 AM EST
    Justice versus vengeance.  I have no problem with imprisonment for the purpose of justice.  I see no issue with seeking justice for anyone who was guilty of murder or torture.  I just don't believe in the right of the state to kill another citizen.

    I certainly don't condone the crime that led to this punishment.


    The problem is (none / 0) (#16)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:04:09 AM EST
    What if he didn't.  No knowledge of the evidence in this case because IMO it's not relevant.  But we know many people have been cleared and certainly many innocent have died in the name of "justice"

    In this case (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:21:05 AM EST
    If you want to cringe (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:34:13 AM EST
    Read about what the other guy did who was saved by the botched execution.

    Doesn't matter.  You are either against killing people or you are not.  I am.


    Bingo! (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by kdog on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:41:34 AM EST
    Does not matter what the convict was convicted of, not one bit...this is about us and our "justice system", and what we want to be.  

    Speaking of "justice system", I think I'm ready to offcially declare the term a first degree oxymoron along with "military intelligence".


    Should admit (none / 0) (#30)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:44:30 AM EST
    This has not always been my position.  It's one I have come to in the last 10 years or so.

    If you never change your mind... (5.00 / 3) (#31)
    by kdog on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:45:12 AM EST
    why have one?  

    I too was a proponent of the execution until... (none / 0) (#41)
    by lcdrrek on Sat May 03, 2014 at 08:40:38 AM EST
    I wasn't!

    Must have been about 20 years ago I was channel surfing and came upon Sister Helen Prejean on Book TV one Saturday.  I sat transfixed as she spoke about the death penalty.  

    I went out and purchased a copy of Dead Man Walking and after reading this I "changed my mind."


    I don't really remember (none / 0) (#43)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:32:03 AM EST
    When my mind was changed.  It was not one thing but more like the accumulation  of evidence.  And I said 10 years but I thnk it may have been longer than that.

    Yes, that's correct! (none / 0) (#40)
    by lcdrrek on Sat May 03, 2014 at 08:34:27 AM EST
    I don't know how anyone can participate (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by ruffian on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:38:09 AM EST
    in this and not feel like a gang of thugs.

    Where's Holder? (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by kdog on Fri May 02, 2014 at 09:58:53 AM EST
    If this travesty of inhumanity is not a clear violation of the 8th Amendment, may as well void the 8th right now.

    Maddow said that an IV line at the groin.... (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by magster on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:56:35 AM EST
    uses the femoral artery, and is beyond the competency of a plain ol' phlemotomist, which didn't stop the phlebotomist from doing it anyways.

    And, wouldn't they know in advance that administration of an IV would be so problematic, instead of discovering it as an issue at the time of execution?

    I don't think it was the phlebotomist (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by jbindc on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:17:17 AM EST
    that was the issue.

    Officials in Oklahoma had many reasons to suspect there would be problems with the execution of death-row inmate Clayton Lockett last night. They were using an untested mix of lethal drugs, never previously used in that dosage combination, obtained through secret means, which precluded the possibility of oversight from attorneys or medical officials on the quality of the drugs. They were warned by medical experts, and asked by defense attorneys, to open up the process to review--by the courts, by doctors, by some members of the public. Yet they refused.

    There's so many issues.... (none / 0) (#23)
    by magster on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:25:11 AM EST
    that it's hard to pinpoint just one.

    Maddow show (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by magster on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:38:45 AM EST

    The whole segment is very good, not just the plebotomist thing.


    I wonder how many different ways .... (5.00 / 3) (#32)
    by magster on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:53:00 AM EST
    I can misspell phlebotomist in this thread.

    She has been great on this. (none / 0) (#29)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:43:21 AM EST
    The segment she did the pervious night on the drugs and their availability is also worth seeing.

    Generally, (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by KeysDan on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:33:31 PM EST
    arteries are not used to administer medications, since such route of administration can cause serious tissue damage.  Indeed, steps need to be taken to avoid accidental intra-arterial injection of intravenous drugs.  

    This is what I was wondering (none / 0) (#19)
    by nycstray on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:15:45 AM EST
    And, wouldn't they know in advance that administration of an IV would be so problematic, instead of discovering it as an issue at the time of execution?

    They botched it (none / 0) (#35)
    by Mikado Cat on Sat May 03, 2014 at 12:22:15 AM EST
    he is dead, and was unconscious from what have read here during all of the botching.

    This would not make a it onto a list of 50 important things to know that happened that day.

    I'd like to know why we seem stuck with such wacky protocols, but this case doesn't overly bother me vs any other execution.

    I'd like to see practical protocols in place, but it does nothing to change my opinion on the death penalty, which is still mixed.

    You should try reading a bit more (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:26:38 AM EST
    D.O.C. Director Robert Patton said Lockett received his first injection at 6:23 p.m.

    Seven minutes later, the other drugs were injected into his body.

    However, Lockett maintained consciousness and witnesses say he began slowly convulsing.

    Minutes later, a doctor in the room decided to stop the execution after a "vein line had blown" in Lockett, according to Patton.

    At 7:06 p.m., 43 minutes after his first injection, Lockett suffered a heart attack and died inside the execution room, Patton said.

    NewsChannel 4′s Courtney Francisco was a witness to the scheduled execution, she provided the following time line:

    6:23 PM - Prison officials raise the blinds. Execution begins.

    6:28 PM - Inmate shivering, sheet shaking.  Breathing deep.

    6:29 PM - Inmate blinking and gritting his teeth.  Adjusts his head.

    6:30 PM - Prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.  Doctor says "He's not unconscious".  Inmate says "I'm not."  Female prison official says, "Mr. Lockett is not unconscious."



    Btw (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat May 03, 2014 at 10:00:25 AM EST
    It you truly would like to know "why we seem to be stuck with such wacky protocols" click the link below.

    For some unknowable reason I don't seem able to link to a specific clip. But if you look at the slider selector under the main video window a scroll to the right a bit you will find a clip titled DEATH PENALTY STATES TRY NEW DRUG EXPERIMENTS
    it gives you a long and easily understandable explanation of exactly why.

    I don't expect you to do this but maybe some one else will


    Yuck (none / 0) (#45)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon May 05, 2014 at 12:36:46 AM EST
    I clicked on a Rachel Maddow link, worse than botched execution, took several seconds to hit mute.

    I know why the preferred drugs were not available, my question, and no I won't listen to Maddow for 20 minutes to see if its there, is why other known effective methods were not adopted like a firing squad or hanging.


    Off the top of my head (none / 0) (#46)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon May 05, 2014 at 07:34:35 PM EST
    Because they are barbaric?

    You don't get it (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by NYShooter on Mon May 05, 2014 at 09:30:31 PM EST
    For him, and, his ilk
    barbarism is a feature,
    not a fault.

    You seem (none / 0) (#48)
    by Mikado Cat on Tue May 06, 2014 at 07:39:24 AM EST
    more concerned about how it appears, where my concern is if its quick and painless.

    Can't argue that either might have (none / 0) (#49)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue May 06, 2014 at 08:35:28 AM EST
    Been more humane than what happened but that's a pretty low bar.

    No, I applaud you (none / 0) (#51)
    by NYShooter on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:27:29 PM EST
    You like your barbarism quick and painless.

    At least that's a step up from the people you elect to do your killing.


    Principle vs Emotion (none / 0) (#50)
    by Dick George on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:41:03 AM EST
    Retribution. Vengeance. Simply getting even.

    All an expression of one's emotion. And as much satisfaction that I get from watching "The Punisher," I firmly believe killing is wrong. Period. Getting pleasure from "The Punisher" is pure emotion - while the source of that is pure fiction.

    On the other hand, in real life, if it is wrong to kill, then it's wrong to kill. An execution is a killing done in my name. And I do not give approval.

    Simple as that.