Execution of Clayton Lockett

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Clayton Lockett
Clayton Lockett.jpg
Mugshot of Lockett
Clayton Darrell Lockett

(1975-11-22)November 22, 1975[1]
DiedApril 29, 2014(2014-04-29) (aged 38)
Cause of deathHeart attack brought on by botched execution by lethal injection
Conviction(s)Forcible oral sodomy, robbery, assault, rape, first-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary[1] (2000)
Criminal penaltyDeath by lethal injection (October 5, 2000)
VictimsStephanie Neiman

The death of Clayton Darrell Lockett occurred on April 29, 2014, when he suffered a heart attack during an execution by lethal injection in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Lockett, aged 38, was convicted in 2000 of murder, rape and kidnapping.

Lockett was administered an untested mixture of drugs that had not previously been used for executions in the United States.[2] Although the execution was stopped, Lockett died 43 minutes after being sedated. He writhed, groaned, convulsed,[3] and spoke during the process and attempted to rise from the execution table fourteen minutes into the procedure, despite having been declared unconscious.[4]


Early life[edit]

Clayton Lockett was born in 1975 to a drug-using mother. She abandoned him when he was three years old, and he was then raised by his father who severely physically abused Lockett throughout his childhood, gave him drugs starting at age 3, and encouraged him to steal and not get caught.[5][6][7]

Criminal history[edit]

In 1992, at the age of sixteen, Lockett pleaded guilty in Kay County to burglary and knowingly concealing stolen property. He received a seven-year prison sentence. Earlier that year, he pleaded no contest to two counts of intimidating state witnesses.

While imprisoned at age 16 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a prison for adults, Lockett was gang raped by three adult male prisoners.[8][9]

In 1999, Lockett kidnapped, beat, and shot Stephanie Neiman, a nineteen-year-old high school graduate, friend of Lockett's other victims, and a witness to his crimes. He beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman did not back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police. After she stated she would go to the police, Lockett decided to bury her alive.[10] Lockett ordered an accomplice to bury her while she was still breathing. She died from two wounds from a shotgun fired by Lockett.[10] In 2000, he was convicted of murder, rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, assault and battery and sentenced to death. Previously Lockett was sentenced to four years in prison for a conviction in 1996 in Grady County for conspiracy to commit a felony.[1]

At his 1999 murder trial, DNA from the dead victim, fingerprints from the duct tape used to bind the victim, and eye-witness testimony led to his murder conviction.[1]

On lethal injections[edit]

From 1890 to 2010, the rate of botched[a] lethal injections in the United States was 7.1%, higher than any other form of execution, with firing squads at 0%, the electric chair at 1.9%, hanging at 3.1%, and the gas chamber at 5.4%.[11]

In 2011, Hospira announced that it would stop manufacturing sodium thiopental, due to use by American prisons for executions. "Virtually all" death rows in the US were left without a steady supply of the drug, which is used to numb the pain of potassium chloride stopping the heart. Some states bartered supplies of execution drugs, while other states were accused of illegally buying drugs from India and other sources. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized supplies of sodium thiopental from several states in spring and summer 2011, questioning how they were imported.[12] Other manufacturers have also refused to provide pharmaceutical drugs for the purpose of execution, and a European export ban added to problems obtaining the necessary drugs.[13][14]

Due to the supply issues, Oklahoma used an untested mixture of midazolam (to make the victim fall unconscious), vecuronium bromide (to paralyse), and potassium chloride (used to stop the heart) for Lockett's execution.[2] While Florida had previously used the same three drugs in a 2013 execution,[15] they used 500 mg of midazolam rather than the 100 mg used by Oklahoma.[16] Secrecy laws in Oklahoma prevent the public knowing more than which three drugs were used. The state refused to state why that drug combination was chosen, what the drugs were like and how they were obtained. Reportedly, the drugs were bought with petty cash making the transaction harder to track and to challenge legally.[17]

In a recent Florida case experts testified that midazolam would not cause unconsciousness. Instead of sedating some patients, midazolam can make them violent. Dennis McGuire took 25 minutes to die; he gasped and snorted. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that if the first drug does not make the inmate unconscious there is an unacceptable risk of suffocation and pain from the two following drugs. Potassium chloride causes severe pain if used without an anesthetic. Pharmacology professor, Craig Stevens of Oklahoma State University asked why anesthesiology or pharmacology experts were not consulted. "Midazolam has no analgesic properties. It's a whole different drug class than sodium thiopental or barbiturates," Stevens said. Stevens described dying from the other two drugs without anesthetic as "horrific".[18] The drug combination used is considered too painful to euthanise animals. "Veterinarians in at least one state are barred from using a three-drug formula used on several inmates, including Clayton Lockett."[19]

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin had strongly pushed for the execution to take place despite the lack of standard drugs, initially issuing an executive order to proceed despite a stay by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. Republican allies of Fallin started impeachment proceedings against the justices who tried to delay the execution;[20] the stay was later lifted. Lockett's lawyers also unsuccessfully sought to force Oklahoma to reveal the source of the drugs, which the state refused.[21][22] Oklahoma officials testified that the drugs to be used in Lockett's execution had been legally obtained and had not expired.[4]

Before the execution, Lockett's stepmother LaDonna Hollins was reported as saying, "I want to know what mixture of drugs are you going to use now? Is this instant? Is this going to cause horrible pain?" and "I know he's scared. He said he's not scared of the dying as much as the drugs administered."[23]

Failed execution[edit]

Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the location of the execution chamber of Oklahoma

Lockett's failed execution occurred at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, on April 29, 2014, after he had been tasered by staff and attempted to cut himself earlier that day.[24] A paramedic tried twice to put an IV needle into Lockett's left arm but failed.[25] She then tried to insert the needle into his brachial vein in his biceps but also failed. She asked for help from a doctor in attendance, Johnny Zellmer, who tried three times to get the IV into the jugular vein in Lockett's neck but failed. He then tried the subclavian vein adjacent to Lockett's collar bone but failed again. The paramedic tried two veins in the left foot but failed. Zellmer then inserted the needle into the femoral vein in the groin.

The execution began at 6:23 p.m CDT, when the first drug midazolam (sedative), was administered. After Lockett was declared unconscious at 6:33 p.m, the next two drugs, vecuronium bromide (paralytic) and potassium chloride (to stop the heart beating), were injected. However, at 6:36, three minutes after being declared unconscious, Lockett started to struggle violently and was able to raise his head and speak saying, "Oh, man", "I'm not..." and according to some sources "something's wrong".[4][26] He attempted to rise from the table at 6:37 p.m. and loudly exhaled.[4] A lawyer for Lockett reportedly said, "It looked like torture."[17] Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said one of the doctors present stopped the execution when it became clear Lockett had a "vein failure".[27] The execution was halted at 6:56.[25] Lockett was declared dead at 7:06 p.m. due to a heart attack.[28]

A subsequent investigation found that all three drugs had been properly administered to Lockett. However, it was a cloth, which had been placed over Lockett's groin to prevent witnesses from viewing the area, that had stopped staff from spotting that the IV connection in the groin had failed because of the collapsed vein.[24] After an attending doctor stated that Lockett had not received enough of the drugs to cause death and there were not enough of the drugs left to attempt to continue, the execution was halted after 33 minutes. Prison officials reportedly discussed taking Lockett to a hospital before he died of a heart attack.[29] Patton stated "the chemicals did not enter into the offender".[30] The report noted:

The doctor checked the IV and reported the blood vein had collapsed, and the drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both. [...] Patton asked if enough drugs had been administered to cause death, to which the doctor replied “no”. The director then asked if another vein was available to complete the execution, and if so, were there enough drugs left. The doctor answered no to both questions.[31]

According to the Department of Corrections, the time for an inmate to be pronounced dead was 6 to 12 minutes in the previous 19 executions before Lockett.[30]


Following Lockett's death, a fourteen-day stay of execution was granted for Charles Frederick Warner, an Oklahoma convict who had been scheduled for execution two hours after Lockett with the same combination of drugs. Governor of Oklahoma Mary Fallin also requested a review of the execution process involved in Lockett's death.[4] Fallin's intervention led to the execution which possibly violated separation of powers within the state.[20]

Dean Sanderford, Lockett's lawyer, witnessed the execution and expressed concern that "the planned review would not be independent". Sanderford feared "investigation by state employees or agencies would not restore confidence in the execution process".[20][32] Lawyers representing the next set of prisoners scheduled to be executed called for a moratorium on all executions. Madeline Cohen, an attorney for Warner, condemned the way Lockett was executed, noting that "Clayton Lockett was tortured to death," also denouncing the state's refusal to disclose "basic information" about the drugs for the lethal injection procedures.[32] Democratic state representative, Joe Dorman called for outside investigation into how Lockett died. He feared the planned review could “lead to suppression of critical evidence in the unlikely event that criminal wrongdoing is uncovered.”[33]

A timeline issued by Robert Patton, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, revealed that Clayton Lockett was tasered after refusing to be restrained and escorted to a medical room for an X-ray exam as part of the protocol leading up to his execution. During his medical exam officials found a cut on his right arm, but staff determined that sutures were not needed. The timeline also revealed that Lockett refused a food tray twice. Patton also recommended in the letter to governor Mary Fallin that the state conduct a complete review of execution protocols, indefinitely suspend all executions, and investigate the circumstances surrounding the execution.[34]

The White House said the execution "fell short of humane standards".[32] President Barack Obama declared the action "deeply disturbing" and ordered attorney general Eric Holder to review the policy on executions.[35] Obama cited uneven application of the death penalty in the United States, including racial bias (Lockett was African-American) and cases in which murder convictions were later overturned, as grounds for further study of the issue.[36][37]

Media coverage portrayed the execution as "botched", The Telegraph calling it "barbarism" and "inappropriate in a civilized society", noting "the idea of actually spectating while the victim is killed surely clashes with basic humanity."[32][38]

The executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, Richard Dieter, said the attempted execution of Lockett was a “torturous action” and might "lead to a halt in executions until states can prove they can do it without problems".[38] He said the death penalty advocates should be “concerned about whether the state knows what it is doing”.[32]

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights suggested that the execution may have been "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" according to international law and may have been cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution of the United States.[37] The government of the United Kingdom issued a statement reiterating its opposition to capital punishment through its embassy in Washington. It said "its use undermines human dignity, there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value, and any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable" and called on the United States to cease its use.[32]

Human rights organizations also condemned the killing and called on the government to end using it. Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said that by using a “science experiment” to cause Lockett to "die in pain" over the course of more than 40 minutes, the state had “disgraced itself before the nation and world”.[32] US advocacy director of Human Rights Watch Antonio Ginatta said "people convicted of crimes should not be test subjects for a state’s grisly experiments" and that the "botched execution was nothing less than state-sanctioned torture".[26]

A month after the execution Oklahoma state had not released the official log of the incident. Oklahoma State University professor and freedom of information campaigner Joey Senat said, “They’re not complying with the law by this kind of delay.”[39]

Lockett's lawyers released the preliminary results of an independent autopsy on Lockett, conducted by forensic pathologist Joseph Cohen and commissioned by Lockett's legal team. It suggested that the execution team failed to ensure the IV had been properly inserted. According to Cohen, the execution team made several attempts to insert IVs into Lockett's arms and groin before inserting an IV in his femoral vein. However, they failed to ensure the IV went in all the way, resulting in the drugs being absorbed into Lockett's muscle. The report also challenged the official claim that Lockett's veins failed, saying that his veins were perfectly healthy.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Professor Austin Sarat of Amherst College defines a "botched" execution as one where "the executioners departed from official legal protocol or standard operating procedure".[11]


  1. ^ a b c d "Offender Lookup-Clayton Lockett". Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Archived from the original on 1 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b Fretland, Katie (2014-04-30). "Oklahoma execution: Clayton Lockett writhes on gurney in botched procedure". The Guardian. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  3. ^ Clayton Lockett execution by Michael Winter, USA Today, May 1, 2014; accessed May 7, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e Eckholm, Erik (2014-04-29). "One Execution Botched, Oklahoma Delays the Next". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  5. ^ "The Life of Clayton Lockett". Medium. April 30, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  6. ^ Ralph W. Marler (August 30, 2000). "Execute murderer, jury says". Tulsa World. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  7. ^ Jeffrey E. Stern (June 2015). "The Cruel and Unusual Execution of Clayton Lockett". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 8, 2015. John Sr. disciplined Lockett and his other children with everything from belts to two-by-fours. Hollins tried to protect the boy, but she wasn’t exempt from John Sr.’s violent temper either; he broke her arm twice. John Sr. taught his children to steal—groceries sometimes, televisions other times—and punished them only for getting caught. Hollins remembers John Sr. blowing marijuana smoke up Lockett’s nose and sitting him down to watch porn when Lockett was a child. “Boy,” he said, “you need to tear that pussy up.” That’s what he told Lockett he was going to do to Hollins.
  8. ^ "The Life of Clayton Lockett". Medium. April 30, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2015. When Clayton was 16, he was incarcerated at a correctional center meant for adults. While there, he was raped by three men.
  9. ^ Jeffrey E. Stern (June 2015). "The Cruel and Unusual Execution of Clayton Lockett". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 8, 2015. At 16, he was sentenced as an adult and sent to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. With no one to protect him, he was raped almost immediately by three other inmates.
  10. ^ a b Branstetter, Ziva (2014-04-20). "Death row inmate killed teen because she wouldn't back down". Tulsa World. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Siegelbaum, Debbie (2014-07-31). "America's 'inexorably' botched executions". BBC News. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  12. ^ Ericson, John (2014-04-30). "Botched Execution Shows Perils of Lethal Injection Drug Shortage". Newsweek. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  13. ^ Ford, Matt (2014-02-18). "Can Europe End the Death Penalty in America?". The Atlantic. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  14. ^ Bershidsky, Leonid (2014-04-30). "Slow Death in Oklahoma Was Europe's Doing". Bloomberg View. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  15. ^ Mencimer, Stephanie (2014-04-29). "Does This Secret Drug Cocktail Work To Execute People? Oklahoma Will Find Out Tonight". Mother Jones. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  16. ^ Weiner, Rachel (2014-04-30). "Virginia details protocol for controversial execution drug". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  17. ^ a b Witnesses to a Botched Execution
  18. ^ Secrets still shroud Clayton Lockett's execution
  19. ^ Drug Cocktail Used In Executions Is Too Painful To Use On Animals: Report
  20. ^ a b c Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has blood on her hands—even if she can’t admit it.
  21. ^ Matt Pearce; Molly Hennessy-Fiske; Paresh Dave (2014-04-29). "Oklahoma halts double execution after one is botched". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  22. ^ Fretland, Katie (2014-04-23). "Oklahoma court lifts stay of executions, heading off confrontation with governor". The Guardian. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  23. ^ "Mother says she is ready for her son's execution, state still lacking two lethal injection drugs". KFOR-TV. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
  24. ^ a b Oklahoma inmate Tasered by prison staff on day of botched execution
  25. ^ a b Stern, Jeffrey E. (June 2015). "The Cruel and Unusual Execution of Clayton Lockett". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  26. ^ a b "Oklahoma: End Barbaric Lethal Injections". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  27. ^ "UPDATE: Chaos after Oklahoma botched lethal injection with never-before used drug". KFOR-TV. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  28. ^ Josh Levs, Ed Payne, Greg Botelho (2014-04-30). "Oklahoma's botched lethal injection marks new front in battle over executions". CNN. Retrieved April 30, 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Michael McLaughlin (2011-06-29). "Oklahoma Botches Clayton Lockett's Execution". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  30. ^ a b "Execution of Clayton Lockett fails, dies of heart attack; Charles Warner execution stayed 14 days". KJRH-TV. 2014-04-29. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  31. ^ Carter and Morris, Chelsea J. and Jason (May 1, 2014). "Documents: Not enough drugs left to finish botched Oklahoma execution". CNN. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g Pilkington, Swaine and Fretland, Ed, Jon and Katie (April 30, 2014). "Botched Oklahoma execution 'fell short of humane standards' – White House". The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  33. ^ Clayton Lockett execution: The killing that puts death row on trial
  34. ^ "DOC Releases Timeline Of Clayton Lockett's Execution". News9.com. May 1, 2014. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  35. ^ Baker, Peter (May 2, 2014). "Obama Orders Policy Review on Executions". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  36. ^ Trott, Bill (May 2, 2014). "Obama to have attorney general look into botched Oklahoma execution". Reuters.
  37. ^ a b UN human rights chief condemns Oklahoma execution of Clayton Lockett
  38. ^ a b Arnold, Alice (April 30, 2014). "Botched Oklahoma execution: 'America is missing the point over death penalty'". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  39. ^ Execution log for Lockett case still under wraps
  40. ^ Kimberly Querry; Meg Alexander (2014-06-13). "Bombshell: Executed Oklahoma inmate's attorneys release shocking findings from autopsy". KFOR-TV.

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