Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow discussed the botched execution of convicted killer Clayton Locket by Oklahoma prison officials. The state was set to execute two inmates on Tuesday evening, but after Locket’s death by lethal injection went awry, the second execution was postponed.
“You may have read lately that state prison systems have been finding it difficult — and in some cases, impossible — to get the chemicals that have traditionally been used in the lethal injection process,” Maddow said. The company that manufactured the main chemical no longer makes it and European companies don’t want their products used for the death penalty.
The state of Oklahoma decided to keep the actual chemical formula of its execution cocktail a secret, but it was known that the poisons carried “a substantial risk of inflicting severe pain.”
The state supreme court ruled to stay the executions, but Gov. Mary Fallon (R) declared that the executions would go forward over the court’s objections. The court decided to reverse its ruling and the killings were slated to go forward on Tuesday.
In August of 2000, Clayton Locket and two accomplices carried out a vicious, brutal attack on a man and two 19-year-old women and the man’s 9-month-old son. The women were raped multiple times and one of them was shot twice in a ditch and buried even as she was in her death-throes.
“When a state executes a prisoner, it’s typical for reporters to be allowed to cover that punishment and write about it,” said Maddow. Locket’s execution was covered by AP reporter Bailey Elise McBride. McBride took to the social medium Twitter and announced Tuesday evening that the execution she was witnessing had gone horribly wrong and Locket was suffering a prolonged and painful death.
Locket died in a hospital of a heart attack, more than 40 minutes after he was injected with the execution drugs. Robert Patton, Oklahoma’s director of corrections, blamed “vein failure” for the fact that the drugs did not work on Locket.
Maddow welcomed attorney Madeline Cohen to the show. She represented Charles Warner, whose execution was postponed for two weeks after Locket’s went wrong. Cohen said that state officials are lying about Locket.
“He did not have vein failure,” Cohen said. “That is dissembling by the Department of Corrections to cover up a horribly botched execution.”
Maddow said that something many people don’t understand is that while the Constitution protects U.S. citizens from cruel and unusual punishment, it does allow for executions, but dictates that they must be humane.
Cohen said that what she wants for the sake of her client is transparency. She said that she wants to know what drugs the state intends to use and where they came from. Because of the shortage of death penalty drugs, she said, prisons are turning to “questionable sources” for the chemicals.
“This is the thing we never wanted to happen,” said Cohen. “This is what we’ve feared and why we need to have transparency in the process.”
“It’s horrible,” she said. “We never want this to happen…It was like watching somebody be tortured. It was the farthest thing from a Constitutional execution that we can imagine.”
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