Medic at botched execution had trouble starting IV
A report by state investigators concluded the “viability of the IV access point” led to difficulty in administering a new lethal drug combination; the inmate died from a heart attack
WASHINGTON — The difficulty of finding a vein to start an IV on a death-row prisoner played a role in a botched execution, according a report released by state officials investigating the incident.
Clayton Lockett ultimately died of a heart attack after the April 2014 execution in an Oklahoma prison, involving a new lethal injection drug combination that included 100 milligrams of midazolam, went wrong.
Documents that include an interview with the paramedic conducted by state officials, also revealed a lack of protocol and equipment, CNN reports.
The paramedic, whose name has not been revealed, said Lockett was “very cooperative,” at one point suggesting a vein in his right leg. The paramedic said she didn’t like using such veins “because they cause a lot of clots.”
“Does it really matter?” Lockett responded, according to a transcript.
Lockett admitted he has been purposely dehydrating himself before the execution. He was on death row for the 1999 brutal murder of Stephanie Neiman.
A report issued by the Department of Public Safety concluded that “viability of the IV access point was the single greatest factor that contributed to the difficulty in administering the execution drugs.”
Documents also revealed the execution team didn’t have the correct size needles, and the drugs didn’t start taking effect when they thought they would, CNN reports. The paramedic told state investigators that in one of several attempts to find a vein, she didn’t have the correct tape to secure the IV.
“They didn’t pick up on what kind of tape I was wanting,” she said.
“She also described the scene:
“There was an air of urgency,” she said. “The quick, quick. Got to get it done. Got to get it done. And got to make sure that everything is done right.”
Lockett was declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of the state’s new three-drug lethal injection combination was administered. Three minutes later, though, he began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.
The blinds were eventually lowered to prevent those in the viewing gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber, and the state’s top prison official eventually called a halt to the proceedings. Lockett died of a heart attack a short time later.
The state adopted a new execution protocol to ensure the proper insertion of an IV line. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt also defends the state’s use of the drug combination, but lawyers for other inmates have challenged it, saying midazolam is not capable of producing deep anesthesia to insure a prisoner will not experience severe pain and needless suffering when given the lethal injection.
The Supreme Court will hear a case that focuses specifically on midazolam this spring.