Oklahoma prison officials unveiled new execution procedures Tuesday to replace those used in April when an inmate writhed and moaned before being declared dead 43 minutes after his lethal injection began — a situation that renewed debate over what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The new guidelines allow the state to keep using midazolam, a sedative used in flawed executions earlier this year in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona, although it calls for increasing by five times the dose it gave Clayton Lockett in April. Other changes include more training requirements for prison staff and members of the execution teams, and having contingency plans in case of problems with execution equipment or an inmate’s medical condition. The new protocols also reduce the number of media witnesses from 12 to five.
An investigation ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin after Lockett’s execution that was conducted by the Department of Public Safety blamed his lengthy death on the poor placement of a single intravenous line in his groin, and a decision by the warden to cover the IV site with a sheet. The investigation recommended more training for prison staff and a contingency plan, both of which are included in the new procedures.
The director of the Department of Corrections, Robert Patton, declined to comment on the protocol changes, citing ongoing litigation.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, who represents 21 death row inmates who have sued the state Department of Corrections to block their executions, said the new protocols do not solve Oklahoma’s execution problems.
“We still do not know what went wrong with Mr. Lockett’s execution,” Baich said. “Discovery and fact-finding by the federal courts will address those issues.
“The prisoners still do not have access to information about the source of the drugs, the qualifications of the executioners, or how the state came up with the different drug combinations.”
Under the new guidelines, Oklahoma can continue to administer midazolam as part of three-drug and two-drug protocols.