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Oklahoma corrections official allow media to tour new death chamber

Oct 10, 2014 | by Lynn Powell

State Corrections Department officials gave a media tour of Oklahoma’s newly renovated death chamber Thursday and confirmed they are prepared to move forward with two upcoming executions in November.Reporters were restricted from asking questions that were not directly related to the new execution chamber, however, Corrections Department spokeswoman Terri Watkins did acknowledge the November executions would remain on schedule.

by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: October 9, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: October 10, 2014

McALESTER — State Corrections Department officials gave a media tour of Oklahoma’s newly renovated death chamber Thursday and confirmed they are prepared to move forward with two upcoming executions in November.

 

The new execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary was reconstructed after the April execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett went awry. A state Public Safety Department investigation later revealed substantial problems with both execution protocol and facilities.

 

Charles Fredrick Warner is scheduled to die Nov. 13, and Richard Eugene Glossip is scheduled to be executed by the state one week later, on Nov. 20. In September, a federal judge expressed doubts the state Corrections Department could implement changes to its protocol in time for the executions. That protocol was unveiled Oct. 1.

 

Reporters were restricted from asking questions that were not directly related to the new execution chamber, however, Corrections Department spokeswoman Terri Watkins did acknowledge the November executions would remain on schedule.

 

The most significant change to the chamber was the enlargement of the “chemical room,” where the executioners administer the lethal drugs.

 

The execution room, where the condemned inmate is strapped to a gurney, was shortened slightly to make room for the changes.

 

As a result of the smaller execution chamber, seating was shortened in the witness area, and media seats for executions have been reduced, as well.

 

Cameras and audio equipment also were added, and the new chemical room has two video screens and a heartbeat monitor so executioners can closely watch the inmate during the procedure.

 

The room itself resembles a small doctor’s office, with a sink, refrigerator to hold medical supplies, and an ultrasound machine to help staff insert the condemned offender’s IV line.

 

Corrections Department Director Robert Patton will sit in the chemical room during future executions, corrections officials who conducted the tour said.

 

A seat designated for the director was situated in the corner of the room next to three phone lines used to pass information between execution staff and the governor’s office.

 

Patton said at a September news conference that the way the communication system had been previous established caused problems during Lockett’s execution.

 

Beginning with Warner’s lethal injection, only one person will be inside the execution room with the inmate, said Scott Crow, the corrections administrator who led the tour.

 

Crow, citing pending litigation, declined to answer questions regarding why only one staff member will remain in the room with the inmate during the execution or what that staff member’s role will be during the process.

 

A new gurney was added, replacing a model that had been constructed in the 1950s.

 

The new gurney is electronic, allowing staff to lower or raise it as needed. A backup battery source was also added, in case there are problems powering the electrical equipment in the chamber.

 

Changes were also made to the watch cells, where inmates are placed 35 days before their execution, however, the media was not given access to the new cells.

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