By ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor AND CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer | Posted 3 days ago
The Department of Corrections log of executed inmate Clayton Lockett's last minutes contains a gap regarding what happened when the blinds were lowered and when he was pronounced dead, records show.
Oklahoma DOC released logs Thursday detailing the days and hours leading up to Lockett's April 29 execution. The log also refers to the person who started Lockett's failed IV as a phlebotomist, despite DOC's claims that a paramedic started the IV. An earlier timeline released by DOC in May also referred to the person as a phlebotomist.
The log released today indicates Lockett's IV placement took about 45 minutes.
The log and related documents were released Thursday, nearly four months after the lethal injection drugs used to execute Lockett left him mumbling and writhing on the gurney. The logs are public records under Oklahoma law and DOC had so far refused to explain the delay in releasing them. An autopsy being conducted by the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office has not been released.
The official log of his execution contains no details of Lockett's reaction as detailed by multiple witnesses —no remarks about his attempt to raise up from the gurney and speak after he was supposed to be unconscious.
Entries for 6:30 and 6:33 p.m. mention the doctor checking for consciousness. The next entry is at 6:42 p.m. when the blinds were lowered, and at 7:06 p.m. when Lockett was declared dead.
The log doesn't say whether anyone attempted to revive Lockett after his execution was officially halted, when media witnesses were blocked from seeing what happened.
A DOC timeline released shortly after Lockett’s execution shows that an unknown quantity of the lethal drugs either absorbed into his tissue, leaked out of his body or both. The prison had no additional lethal drugs on hand and the doctor said he could not find another vein even if drugs were available.
Officials in the death chamber closed the blinds to witnesses, and DOC Director Robert Patton ordered a halt to the execution. Patton said Lockett's vein "exploded" and he later died from a heart attack.
However, DOC's timeline and the log released Thursday contain a gap that does not show what happened during Lockett's last minutes.
The log begins Feb. 2 and tracks Lockett's meals, conversations and other activities. Lockett received two stays before his execution.
A March 5 entry states: "Lockett said he has his mind set and is ready for execution." But each time the execution dates approached, records show he stopped eating.
On the morning of his April 29 death, prison guards came to remove him from his cell for a medical checkup. He refused commands and they shocked him with a Tazer. They put him on a gurney and took him to the medical unit, records show.
At 6:45 a.m., staff discovered Lockett had wounds. Other records show Lockett had intentionally injured his arms.
At 5:19 p.m., Lockett is standing in a shower on the H Unit at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, and the state has redacted details of what happened from the log.
An independent autopsy sought in May by his defense attorneys determined Lockett’s IV wasn’t properly placed in his vein, likely causing the drugs to slowly leak into his soft tissue instead of his bloodstream.
Lockett died shortly after his execution was officially halted. A Tulsa World investigation found that a timeline released by DOC incorrectly stated a phlebotomist started the failed IV.
Under Oklahoma law, officials don’t have to release the identity or credentials of the medical professionals who participate in executions. Last week, the state Department of Public Safety intervened in a Tulsa World records request to Texas officials. The Department of Public Safety asked that some documents related to the autopsy be withheld.
DPS is expected to release an investigative report on Lockett's death in the near future.
The findings of the May 14 autopsy performed by forensic pathologist Joseph I. Cohen cast doubt on DOC’s initial claims that Lockett’s vein collapsed during the execution.
The report states Lockett’s peripheral and deep veins had “excellent integrity” to place an IV.
Cohen reported finding “skin punctures on the extremities and right and left femoral areas,” indicating that the execution team attempted to place IVs in both arms and both sides of Lockett’s groin.
DOC’s timeline indicates that a “phlebotomist” could not find a suitable vein for the IV and that it was placed in his femoral vein, in the groin area. Phlebotomists are not licensed in Oklahoma to start IVs.
Cohen also found superficial and deep hemorrhages “indicative of failed vascular catheter access,” the release states.
The execution team’s attempts to insert the IV perforated the femoral vein, the report indicates. Contrary to statements by the state, Lockett’s veins did not collapse or “blow out,” the news release states.
The execution marked Oklahoma’s first use of the sedative midazolam in an execution. Critics say it’s not a true anesthetic, and media witnesses reported Lockett remaining conscious long after he was supposed to be knocked out.
Cohen was retained by attorneys for Oklahoma death-row prisoners. He is president of United Forensic Services, with offices in California and New York. Cohen formerly served as the chief forensic pathologist for the Riverside (Calif.) County Sheriff-Coroner and was city medical examiner for New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
The Dallas autopsy was conducted at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin.
She also appointed her public safety commissioner, Michael Thompson, to conduct what she said would be an independent investigation into Lockett’s execution. Some critics have said Thompson could not lead an impartial investigation because he was appointed by Fallin and served as a witness to the execution.
A 2011 state law prohibits the release of all information about participants in executions. Corrections officials have refused to say whether the EMT present was a paramedic, as required by its protocol.
Lockett was convicted in the 1999 shooting of Stephanie Neiman, 19, of Perry. He and two accomplices abducted Neiman along with two other adults and a baby.
They were taken to a rural area of Noble County, where Lockett shot Neiman twice. He ordered an accomplice to bury her despite being told she was still alive.
The execution of a second death row inmate scheduled for two hours after Lockett was stayed. Inmate Charles Warner's execution was rescheduled for Nov. 13; however, it is unclear whether DOC will have time to implement any policy changes by that date.
Executions of two other inmates are set after Warner's.
Legal challenges to the state's process could also delay upcoming executions.
Claiming the state is experimenting on “captive and unwilling human subjects,” 21 Oklahoma death-row prisoners filed a federal lawsuit in June challenging the state’s execution protocols.
The suit asks the court to prohibit the state from executing them using the same “drugs and procedures employed in the attempt to execute” Lockett.
There are 49 inmates on Oklahoma’s death row.
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