Lethal Injection

Oklahoma Governor Says Execution Probe Will Be 'Independent'

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she has tapped her public-safety commissioner to lead a state review of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett and an independent pathologist to declare a cause of death.

Fallin took no questions after delivering a brief statement on Wednesday afternoon, which began with a recitation of Lockett's crimes — he shot one woman and repeatedly raped another — and a summary of his failed appeals.

"I believe the legal process worked. I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment to those who commit heinous crimes," Fallin said.

But, she added, the state needs to be "certain" its execution protocols are proper and so authorized what she called "an independent review."


Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson will be asked to report back on the cause of Lockett's death and whether the Department of Corrections followed its protocol, and make recommendations to improve the execution process.

Lockett's aunt, Deanna Parker, said the family wants their own pathologist involved and said the review should be conducted from someone outside of Fallin's administration,

“It needs to be an outside source," she said. "I don't trust anything Gov. Fallin has to say. They need to get this right. It does not need to come from her office."

Lockett's attorney, federal public defender Dean Sanderford, also called for more independence.

"The DPS is a state agency, and its Commissioner reports to the Governor. As such, the review proposed by Governor Fallin would not be conducted by a neutral, independent entity," Sanderford said in a statement.

"In order to understand exactly what went wrong in last night’s horrific execution, and restore any confidence in the execution process, the death of Clayton Lockett must be investigated by a truly independent organization, not a state employee or agency."

During the review, the execution of Charles Warner, who was supposed to be killed two hours after Lockett, will be on hold.

Both men fought to have their executions put off until the state agreed to reveal the source of its new three-drug cocktail.

When the state Supreme Court issued a stay of execution, Fallin accused the justices of overstepping their bounds and the state attorney general said the ruling had created a constitutional crisis. The court then reversed the stay and green-lighted the executions.

Image: Charles Warner, Clayton Lockett
Charles Warner, left and Clayton Lockett, right. Oklahoma Department of Corrections / AP file

Witnesses reported that three minutes after Lockett was declared unconscious, he had a violent reaction, lifted his head and body from the gurney several times, and mumbled.

Prison officials halted the execution and later said an intravenous line had blown. They also said Lockett then died of a massive heart attack.

The parents of Stephanie Neiman — the 19-year-old girl who was shot twice and buried alive by Locket — on Wednesday said they had no further words on the matter beyond what they said in a handwritten statement the day before, which read:

"God blessed us with our precious daughter, Stephanie for 19 years. Stephanie loved children. She worked in Vacation Bible School and always helped with our church nativity scenes. She was the joy of our life. We are thankful this day has finally arrived will finally be served."

— Tracy Connor