Botched Oklahoma Execution Casts Shadow on Texas Death Row

Criminal defense attorneys are already mapping strategy to halt Texas executions after Tuesday’s botched lethal injection in Oklahoma.

Inmate Clayton Lockett was sentenced to death for shooting a teenager and watching as she was buried alive. His lethal injection began at 6:23pm but was halted after about 20 minutes when he tried to talk and suffered seizures.

An Associated Press witness said the blinds were lowered in the execution chamber at 6:39pm and Lockett died of a heart attack at 7:06pm.

It was the first use of a new combination of drugs for lethal injection in Oklahoma. "It’s shocking that the government would torture people like this," Dallas criminal defense attorney John Tatum said.

Tatum represents several Texas death row inmates, including Naim Muhammad, convicted of the 2011 Dallas drowning his two children. Tatum said the Oklahoma incident is reason to challenge all lethal injections.

"Every case that’s pending in the state or any state that uses a different cocktail of drugs to kill people," Tatum said.

Tatum was one of several defense attorneys attending a conference Wednesday on capital punishment defense, where talk turned to the execution of Clayton Lockett. 

"The duration of it is what was cruel and unusual in my view," said attorney Rick Wardroup.

The attorneys said Texas has refused to disclose the source of lethal injections drugs it is using now.  "We don’t know whether it’s coming from China," said attorney Brad Lollar. "There’s just no telling. And there’s no quality assurance there.”

Former prosecutor Toby Shook handled 21 death penalty cases. He witnessed the 2012 execution of Texas 7 leader George Rivas for the murder of Irving Police officer Aubrey Hawkins.  "He went very calmly. It was very clinical," Shook said.

Shook said The State of Texas will claim it’s lethal injection procedures are not flawed. “I’m sure what the state will argue is that we haven’t had these problems in Texas and the process has worked,” Shook said.

The next execution scheduled in Texas is inmate Robert Campbell for the 1991 robbery, rape and murder of a Houston woman. 

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