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6-month stay sought in delayed Oklahoma execution

May 5, 2014 Updated: May 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Attorneys for an Oklahoma inmate who was to be put to death the same night as a botched execution asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday to grant a stay for at least six months pending a review into what went wrong last week.

Lawyers for Charles Warner cited last Tuesday's execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, gritted his teeth and moaned before being pronounced dead of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.

The stay should be granted "until evidence can be provided to counsel for Warner that the state of Oklahoma can carry out a humane, constitutional execution," according to the emergency application for a stay.

Warner's attorney, Susanna Gattoni, said her client is not pursuing an appeal to his death sentence or criminal conviction.

"That's been decided long ago," Gattoni said, "but we are still looking at options with respect to a way to bring about some process that can ensure that if the death penalty continues to be conducted here in the state of Oklahoma, that it's done so in a manner that doesn't violate the state and federal constitution.

"And I would think everyone in the state of Oklahoma would want that."

President Barack Obama had last week called the Lockett incident "deeply troubling" and said he's asked his attorney general for a review of the death penalty's application.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said he believes no executions should occur until a review of Lockett's execution is complete.

"We're reviewing the latest request and will file a response," Pruitt spokeswoman Diane Clay said Monday.

Warner, who was convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old in 1997, has maintained his innocence. He was scheduled to die last week two hours after Lockett, but Gov. Mary Fallin issued a two-week stay pending a thorough inquiry into Lockett's execution. Fallin also has said she is willing to extend her stay for up to 60 days, the maximum length she is allowed under state law.

In an editorial released Monday, Fallin said the state lawfully carried out Lockett's death sentence and that "justice was served."

"The people of Oklahoma do not have blood on their hands," Fallin wrote. "They saw Clayton Lockett for what he was: evil. His execution means he will never again harm or terrorize another person."

Last Tuesday was the first time Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam as the first element in its execution drug combination. Other states have used it before; Florida administers 500 milligrams as part of its three-drug combination. Oklahoma used 100 milligrams.

A report issued last week by Oklahoma's Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton detailing Lockett's last day of life said Lockett had self-inflicted wounds on his arm, and the execution team was unable to find suitable veins in his arms, legs and neck. An IV was inserted into Lockett's groin area and the execution began.

A doctor who checked the IV about 20 minutes into Lockett's execution reported that the vein had collapsed, and that some of the drugs absorbed into his tissue, leaked out, or both, according to Patton's report.

After learning that Lockett didn't have another viable vein, and the state didn't have another dose of the drugs available, Patton called off the execution, but Lockett died anyway about 10 minutes later.

Patton already has called for an indefinite stay of execution until the state has changed its execution procedures and retrained the Corrections staff.

Lockett and Warner had challenged the secrecy behind Oklahoma's execution practices, including a provision that allows the Department of Corrections to keep secret the source of the lethal injection drugs. The state Supreme Court ultimately rejected those claims.


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