Oklahoma executed Charles Warner on Thursday night after a divided U.S. Supreme Court voted not to stop his lethal injection. Warner, who was convicted of raping and murdering an 11-month-old girl, was the first inmate put to death in the state since the botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett nine months ago.
"Before I give my final statement, I'll tell you they poked me five times. It hurt. It feels like acid," Warner said before the execution began, according to an Associated Press reporter who was a witness.
"My body is on fire," Warner said after the first of three drugs was administered. "No one should go through this. I'm not afraid to die." The reporter, Sean Murphy, said the prisoner showed no sign of distress or suffering other than his words.
Warner was originally supposed to be put to death within hours of Lockett in April, but the execution was called off when the medical team bungled the first procedure. Midway through the 43-minute procedure, Lockett woke up, muttered and tried to rise — a disturbing scene that sparked global outrage.
While a state investigation found an improperly placed IV was to blame for the Lockett debacle, Warner's defense team said it showed the sedative Oklahoma uses, midazolam, is unreliable and could leave a prisoner conscious when two other painful drugs are injected.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument 5-4, with dissents from Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
"I am deeply troubled by this evidence suggesting that midazolam cannot constitutionally be used as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection protocol," Sotomayor wrote. "It is true that we give deference to the district courts. But at some point we must question their findings of fact, unless we are to abdicate our role of ensuring that no clear error has been committed."
Sotomayor said Warner and the other death-row inmates "have committed horrific crimes, and should be punished."
"But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death," she added. "I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions."
Warner's lawyer, Dale Baich, said that even though the high court declined to intervene Thursday night, it will have to revisit the issue in the future.
"The drugs and drug combinations used in executions today vary tremendously across different jurisdictions," he said. "This experimentation has led to the predictable, but tragic result of multiple botched executions. The Court's guidance on the practices currently employed in lethal injection is urgently needed."
The mother of Warner's young victim had also opposed the execution, saying capital punishment goes against her religious beliefs and would "dishonor" the name of her 11-month-old daughter, Adrianna.
Warner's execution was the second in the country on Thursday. Earlier, Florida gave a lethal injection to Johnny Shane Kormondy, who was convicted of murdering a banker and raping his wife during a 1993 home-invasion robbery. The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected a last-minute appeal by his legal team.
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