Ronan Farrow Daily   |  April 30, 2014

A 'wild new experiment' on human beings

Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer joins to discuss the execution of one death row inmate in Oklahoma that went awry and the experimental drugs that were used for it.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in just under an hour oklahoma governor mary fallin is hosting a press conference to discuss the famously grisly execution of this death row inmate that went awry last night. we want to look at that for a moment. last night as i mentioned the state of oklahoma injected clayton lockett with an experimental mix of drugs. they refuse to disclose the source. here's what happened according to the reporter in the room. 6:23 p.m . execution begins. 6:28 p.m . inmate shivering, shaking, gritting his teeth. 6:38 to:39 p.m. inmate appears to be struggling. trying to talk. says, man. appears to be trying to get up. finally it was announced that the execution had failed. as a result, clayton lockett died of a massive heart attack 40 minutes after oklahoma began trying to kill him. just last month nbc affiliate kfor spoke to lockett's stepmother, ladonna holland, who expressed the family's fears about this exact kind of outcome.

>> i know he's scared. he says that he's not as scared of the dying as much as the drugs that's being administered. i want to know what mixture of drugs are you going to use now? is this going to cause horrible pain?

>> lockett had sued the state for refusing to disclose those details about the drugs' origins. his attorney was outraged at what he saw last night when the state rushed, ignored lockett's appeal and went ahead with the execution anyway. listen to him.

>> this was a horrible thing to witness. one of the things he said was, something's wrong. he said, man, at one point. he kept trying to raise up. they wanted to hurry up and get it done. with as little transparency as possible. this is what they get.

>> just after lockett's execution went so awry, oklahoma governor mary fallin issued a stay of execution for the second inmate, charles warner , who was scheduled to die last night. look, these are some of america's worst criminals. warner raped and killed his girlfriend's 11-month-old daughter in 1997 . lockett shot a teenage girl and then buried her alive. the question on many people's minds is, should they die like this? joining me now is stephanie mensimer. stephanie , we know lockett and warner were appealing their death sentences . what was the state's rush to get these executions done last night?

>> well, the state has been actually trying to defend a larger statute that goes beyond these two men. they've been working very hard to hide the source of the drugs they're trying to use in these lethal executions. that's really what the legal issue was all about. and i think they were just hoping that no court was going to rule against them before they executed these guys. because they've -- they don't want anyone to know where they're getting the drugs. what's necessarily in them. and how they were manufactured.

>> and why do you think that is?

>> well, i think that there is -- over the last couple of years, there have been drug shortages for the drugs that are typically used in lethal injections and the death penalty .

>> partly because, of course, the european union has banned these drugs to be exported for this purpose, correct?

>> right. and one of the manufacturers in the united states stopped making it completely. and so the states have been in a bit of a bind if they want to keep continuing to do lethal executions -- or lethal injections. they have to find new sources of the drugs or different drugs. and it's kind of this -- this wild new experiment that they're doing on human beings to try to find new ways to kill them.

>> what are they afraid people will find out if they reveal the sources of these drugs?

>> well, you know, it's funny. they've made some crazy arguments. they say that the people who are supplying the drugs have been -- you know, might be threatened with violence. because, you know, anti- death penalty advocates are such violent people. there's some really absurd arguments about this. and i think really what they're trying to do is keep the defendants from making a constitutional argument that these drugs that they're using would constitute cruel and unusual punishment because of the way they were made or potential adulterations or in some cases they're getting these drugs from compounding pharmacies, which have a really bad track record of, you know, distributing other sorts of drugs that have killed a bunch of people inadvertently. there's some real concerns about where these drugs are coming from. so they're trying to keep the inmates from making that case in court.

>> as we mentioned, the governor of oklahoma did stay the execution for 14 days of this next planned killing. do you think that that's long enough? she claims they'll make a thorough investigation. is there enough time to do that in 14 days?

>> well, they might be able -- i mean, i guess they've said that this execution went awry because of something that had to do with the vein exploding. which sounds really horrible. but that would indicate, if it's true, that it didn't really have anything to do with the drugs they were using.

>> we should point out, by the way, we've had some of our experts look at that. when they say exploding it's a term of art, apparently, that doesn't literally mean exploding. it's a collapsed vein , a damaged vein.

>> right, right. which is actually pretty common. something like 7% of all lethal injection executions go awry. it's often for this reason. the veins, you know, the needles aren't put in right because it's not done by doctors. it's usually done by prison guards. so there's a lot of, you know, complications just from inserting the needle itself. but i think the bigger issue is whether the state can continue to, you know, hide the source of the drugs. and that's what i don't think they can litigate in 14 days. and so if they want to get at that issue, they're going to need more time.

>> thank you for that, stephanie mencimer. we'll be watching this issue closely.