Lethal Injection

Oklahoma Team Struggled to Find Vein Before Botched Execution

Image:  The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla.

The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. AP

The lethal injection in the botched Oklahoma execution was given through the inmate’s groin after a specialist could not find a good spot on his arms, legs or feet, the state’s prison chief revealed Thursday.

Clayton Lockett’s legal team denounced the method as “invasive and painful,” speculated that it was done incorrectly and accused the state of trying to “whitewash” the death-row debacle.

The new details about how the three-drug combination was administered came in a letter from Department of Corrections director Robert Patton to Governor Mary Fallin, which also disclosed that Lockett was Tasered and cut his own arm in the hours before the execution.

Patton recommended an indefinite delay in executions until a review of the state's lethal injection protocol ordered by Fallin is complete.

Fallin had ordered a two-week delay in the next execution, but Patton said it could take longer "to refine the new protocols."

"I intend to explore best practices from other states and ensure the Oklahoma protocol adopts proven standards," he wrote.

He also suggested that state officials more senior than a prison warden should have the responsibility of making execution decisions.

Lockett’s death has renewed debate over the use of lethal injections amid drug shortages that have forced states to come up with new execution formulas.

Oklahoma was trying a new drug protocol on Lockett, who raped one woman, shot another and ordered two accomplices to bury her alive.

Witnesses have said Lockett, 38, appeared to be awake, in pain and struggling several minutes after he was declared unconscious.

His movements on the death-chamber gurney were not mentioned in Patton's timeline of the execution, which did reveal that Lockett was not cooperative during execution preparations.

Prison officers used a stun-gun on condemned man when he refused to be restrained for pre-execution medical X-rays, Patton said.

During the subsequent exam, a "self-inflicted laceration" was discovered on his right arm, but it did not require stitches, he wrote.

Lockett, 38, also refused final visits with his lawyers and his last meal.

After he was brought to the execution chamber, a phlebotomist could not find a good place on his arms, legs and feet to put the IV and instead ran the line into his groin.

Other key points in the timeline:

  • 6:18 p.m. — Lethal injection IV lines are inserted.
  • 6:23 p.m. — The first drug, midazolam, is given to cause loss of consciousness.
  • 6:33 p.m. — Doctor declares Lockett unconscious and begins administering two other drugs, the paralytic vecuronium bromide and the heart-stopper potassium chloride.
  • 6:42 p.m. — Shades lowered to block view by witnesses.
  • 6:44 to 6:56 p.m. — Doctor reports blood vein collapsed, drugs either absorbed into tissue, leaked out, or both. Doctor says not enough drugs have been administered to cause death, that no other vein is available, and that not enough drugs remain. The doctor detects a faint heartbeat.
  • 6:56 p.m. — Execution is halted.
  • 7:06 p.m. — Lockett pronounced dead.

A second inmate, Charles Warner, who raped and killed an 11-month-old baby, was due to be executed right after Lockett but his lethal injection was rescheduled for May 13.


Warner’s lawyer, Madeline Cohen, said she agrees with Patton’s call for an indefinite stay of execution and urged that the probe be carried out by someone outside Fallin’s administration.

“Oklahoma is revealing information about this excruciatingly inhumane execution in a chaotic manner, with the threat of execution looming over Charles Warner,” she said.

“No execution should take place in Oklahoma until there has been time for a thorough and truly independent investigation into the protocol, the drugs and the manner in which Oklahoma carries out executions.

“This most recent information about the tortuous death of Mr. Lockett, and the State's efforts to whitewash the situation, only intensifies the need for transparency."

NBC News' Tracy Connor contributed to this report.