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Slow botched execution of Oklahoma murderer ruled constitutional by US court

Lawyers had argued that the execution of Clayton Lockett was “prolonged and agonising”

Lockett died of a heart attack after an execution that lasted over 45 minutes.
Lockett died of a heart attack after an execution that lasted over 45 minutes.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

OKLAHOMA COULD RESUME executing people in the New Year after a US judge rejected legal arguments that the methods are “prolonged and agonising.”

The decision comes after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer and rapist, who was put to death in April using an untested three-drug protocol in a process that took 43 minutes.

This was well over the expected time of 10 minutes and officials said Lockett, who was seen writhing in pain, bucking off the gurney and mumbling unintelligibly, ultimately died of a massive heart attack.

Lockett was administered a new, untested three-drug protocol in what would have been the central state’s first double execution in 80 years.

But Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton ordered the execution of Lockett stopped about three or four minutes after the start of the injection at 6:23 pm, citing a “vein failure,” a prisons spokesman said.

Lockett died of a massive heart attack at 7:06 pm after receiving all three drugs.

Lawyers filed a preliminary injunction last month arguing that some combinations of lethal injection drugs — including the controversial anesthetic Midazolam — cause “prolonged and agonising death” for inmates, who they said were not adequately informed about procedures.

Attorneys argued against “using any drugs or combination of drugs that is experimental and being used on captive human subjects,” according to court documents.

But US District Judge Stephen Friot has denied the request for a preliminary injunction, saying it was “without merit.”

Death penalty opponents allege that recent lengthy executions — which at times left inmates suffering for more than an hour — amount to the “cruel and unusual” punishment forbidden by the US Constitution.

Oklahoma Execution Robert Patton, director of Oklahoma Prisons. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Midazolam was used in three executions this year — in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona — that were criticized because the condemned took longer than usual to die and apparently suffered.

A four-time felon, Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999. Neiman and a friend had interrupted the men as they robbed a home.

Warner, 46, had been scheduled to be executed two hours later in the same room and on the same gurney. He was convicted of raping and killing his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997. He has maintained his innocence.

© – AFP 2014 with reporting from Associated Press

Read: Executioners in Oklahoma’s botched execution couldn’t inject the needle properly >

Read: White House says botched execution wasn’t humane, but maintains support for death penalty >

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