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Oklahoma Executions On Hold Until New Procedures Implemented, Governor Mary Fallin Says

Huffington Post: The Blog | By Tim Talley

New procedures to improve Oklahoma's execution process must be implemented before the state resumes putting prisoners to death by lethal injection, Gov. Mary Fallin said after investigators presented their findings about an April case in which the inmate writhed and moaned on the gurney.

In its report released Thursday about the troubled April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett — who was declared dead 43 minutes after his execution began — the state Department of Public Safety made 11 recommendations include more training for medical personnel and having additional supplies of lethal drugs and equipment on hand.

Corrections Director Robert Patton is reviewing the guidelines, Fallin said, adding that she expects the department to implement them before executions resume. Three executions have been set for November and December, the first on Nov. 13.

The governor said she still believes the death penalty is a just punishment for those guilty of the most heinous crimes, but that the state must make sure it's carried out effectively.

"If I am assured as governor that those protocols are in place ... then we can look forward to returning to executions. But until all of those protocols have been put in place, we won't be having executions," Fallin said.

Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said Patton had no immediate comment. But Michael Thompson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, echoed Fallin.

"The last thing we want to do is rush this and have an issue come up where we're not prepared for an execution," Thompson said.

Fallin said the report verified what authorities had believed: "There were significant complications establishing an IV line in Clayton Lockett."

The report blamed Lockett's flawed lethal injection on poor placement of intravenous lines. The medical team could not find suitable veins in Lockett's arms, legs, neck and feet, leading them to insert it in his groin, the report said.

Out of modesty, no one monitored the intravenous line, a job that is the normal duty of Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammel, who decided to cover Lockett's body — and the IV — with a sheet. When it became apparent the execution wasn't progressing normally, the execution team pulled back the sheet and noticed a swelling larger than a golf ball near the injection site.

"Those involved with the execution stated that they could have noticed the problem earlier if they had been monitoring the insertion site during that time," lead investigator Capt. Jason Holt said.

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Background Photo Credit: Kasia Broussalian © 2015