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Oklahoma prison officials unveiled new execution procedures Tuesday to replace those used in April when an inmate writhed and moaned before being declared dead 43 minutes after his lethal injection began — a situation that renewed debate over what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The new guidelines allow the state to keep using midazolam, a sedative used in flawed executions in other states, although it calls for increasing by five times the dose it gave Clayton Lockett in April. Other changes include more training requirements for prison staff and members of the execution teams, and having contingency plans in case of problems. The new protocols also reduce the number of media witnesses from 12 to five.
An investigation ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin after Lockett's execution blamed his lengthy death on the poor placement of a single intravenous line in his groin and a decision to cover the IV site with a sheet. The investigation recommended more training and a contingency plan, both of which are included in the new procedures.
The director of the Department of Corrections, Robert Patton, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, who represents 21 death row inmates who have sued to block their executions, said the new protocols do not solve Oklahoma's execution problems.
"We still do not know what went wrong with Mr. Lockett's execution," Baich said. Prisoners are still denied information about the source of the drugs or how the state came up with drug combinations, he said.