The execution began at 6:23 p.m. when officials began administering the first drug, and a doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33 p.m.
About three minutes later, though, Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow. After about three minutes, a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering Lockett to examine the injection site. After that, an official who was inside the death chamber lowered the blinds, preventing those in the viewing room from seeing what was happening.
Patton then made a series of phone calls before calling a halt to the execution. He also issued a 14-day postponement in the execution of inmate Charles Warner, who had been scheduled to die on Tuesday, two hours after Lockett was put to death.
“It was extremely difficult to watch,” Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, said afterward. He also questioned the amount of the sedative midazolam that was given to Lockett, saying he thought it was “an overdose quantity.” It was the first time Oklahoma administered midazolam as the first drug in its execution drug combination.
I thought that Mengele had established a precedent that captives not be used to beta-test drugs or experimental protocols. Then again, the past decade has laid waste to the idea that there are things that Americans simply “don’t do.” Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s actions lend support to my earlier expectation that shortages of drugs comprising the standard lethal-injection protocol would not cause (blood-) red states to rethink their reliance on capital punishment. Instead of suspending executions or seeking other methods, states will be winging it (decidedly NSFW). It is unclear how this kind of amateurism comports with the “evolving standards of decency” that control our understanding of the Eighth Amendment’s strictures against “cruel and unusual punishment.” But without a wave of public revulsion against actions like Oklahoma’s, it will be hard to convince the requisite number of appellate judges to rethink the death penalty.