Autopsy on executed Oklahoma inmate cites IV issue

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma inmate who died following a botched execution had healthy veins, but his body had numerous puncture wounds from multiple attempts to tap them, according to a private autopsy released Friday by attorneys for Oklahoma death row inmates.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Cohen said more information was needed to determine why Clayton Lockett died, but his preliminary findings indicate that the execution team tried repeatedly to insert an intravenous line into his body without success, including into deep veins on both sides of Lockett’s groin.

A doctor inside the death chamber during the April 29 execution reported that Lockett did not receive a full dose of the three lethal drugs after his vein collapsed, but Cohen said in his report that Lockett had “excellent integrity of peripheral and deep veins for the purpose of achieving venous access.”

Results from a state autopsy are pending, and toxicology reports haven’t been released, so it’s unclear how much of the drugs Lockett received.

Oklahoma executions typically involve IVs inserted into both arms, but prison officials have reported an IV specialist hired for Lockett’s execution was unable to find viable veins on his arms, legs or feet. A doctor overseeing the execution suggested tapping the femoral vein in Lockett’s groin area, but prison officials have not said who inserted the IV, and state law allows the identities of the doctor and the IV expert to remain secret.

After being declared unconscious by the doctor inside the death chamber during his execution, Lockett writhed on the gurney and attempted to lift his head for several minutes after the second and third drugs were administered. After checking the IV, the doctor reported the drugs had either absorbed into Lockett’s tissue or leaked out of his body. Oklahoma was using a new three-drug method for the first time.

Without a second dose of lethal drugs, Oklahoma’s prisons director halted the execution, but Lockett was pronounced dead anyway about 43 minutes after the execution began. Prison officials have said he died of an apparent heart attack.

Cohen said he could not address that point. Lockett’s heart and larynx were kept by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office, which was conducting an autopsy on Lockett at the request of Oklahoma officials.

The Texas autopsy was part of an investigation ordered by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin into Lockett’s death. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a six-month stay of execution for a second inmate who was scheduled to die on the same night as Lockett.


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