OKLAHOMA CITY — The botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate last spring that led to a moratorium while the state reconsidered its lethal injection protocols was "barbaric" and violated the inmate's constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishment, his brother contends in a lawsuit.
In his lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, Gary Lockett says the April 29 execution of his brother Clayton Lockett, which took nearly an hour to complete, also contradicted international law and "elementary concepts of human decency."
"The barbaric spectacle was a disgrace to the people of the United States of America and brought shame to the state of Oklahoma," he contends.
Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, writhed on the gurney, mumbled and strained to lift his head during the execution. Executions typically take about 10 minutes to complete, but officials called a halt to Lockett's execution about 30 minutes into it because it was obvious something was wrong. He was declared dead 43 minutes after the procedure began, and although the doctor who oversaw the execution said at the time that he died of a heart attack, the official state autopsy determined that the drugs killed him.
It was the first execution in which Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam as part of a three-drug lethal injection combination. A state Department of Public Safety investigation determined that the problems during the botched execution were caused by the poor placement of a single intravenous line, not the drugs. The poorly placed IV line resulted in the drugs being pumped into Lockett's muscle tissue, instead of directly into his bloodstream.
Since Lockett's execution, the state's execution protocols have been rewritten to include more training and better equipment for the execution team, and the amount of midazolam used in a lethal injection has been increased by five times. Oklahoma's next scheduled execution is Nov. 13, but attorneys for the state last week requested a delay of at least another 60 days to give prison officials more time to obtain the necessary drugs and train the execution team.
In his lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Clayton Lockett's estate, Gary Lockett contends that by using a new lethal injection formula, his brother was "cast in the unwitting role of human lab rat."
He named as defendants Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma prison officials, members of the execution team, the manufacturers of the drugs and the compounding pharmacies that mixed them. The lawsuit seeks an award of damages for the "physical and psychological suffering" inflicted upon Clayton Lockett, as well as attorney fees and costs.
Clayton Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999.
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