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Federal Judge To Hear Evidence After 21 Death Row Inmates’ Challenge Lethal Injection

A federal judge is preparing to hear evidence in a case in which 21 Oklahoma death row inmates are challenging the state’s lethal injection procedures after a botched execution took place in April.

Attorneys for the state of Oklahoma say new lethal injection protocols will address the problems that took place during the bungled execution of 38-year-old Clayton Lockett. But inmates argue the state is experimenting on them with new drug combinations that inevitably lead to cruel and unusual punishment.

Oklahoma’s first execution since Lockett’s is scheduled for January 15, 2015. A federal judge will decide after hearings – that begin on Wednesday – if the state is ready to proceed forward with the execution.

An 80-page never-before-seen legal filing in the case included unreleased witness testimony’s of Lockett’s execution in which Warden Anita Trammell described it as a “bloody mess.” Prison officials allegedly lowered the blinds after a doctor noticed problems with Lockett’s IV, preventing some witnesses from seeing exactly what took place. Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure started. Trammell told investigators that after the blinds lowered, the doctor tried to set up a second IV line in Lockett’s groin, and that “blood squirted up and got all over his jacket.” One member of the execution team said Lockett continued trying to rise up from the gurney and became “a little bit more aggressive,” after the blinds shut. The paramedic described Lockett’s execution from start to finish as “such a cluster.”

The top lawyer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Michael Oakley, told state investigators the sedative midazolam was selected as the first of three drugs in Lockett’s execution after he talked with officials from other states and conducted his own research online. Oakley said state officials were struggling to find alternative drugs after those commonly used became scarce, and he acknowledged there was political pressure on the elected attorney general’s office to “get it done, hurry about it.” Oakley retired just a few days before Lockett’s execution.

Prison officials also spoke out – telling investigators they weren’t properly trained and knew little about the effects of midazolam. A doctor and a paramedic involved in the execution claimed they’d never attended any lethal injection training. The doctor, who placed an intravenous line in Lockett that became dislodged, also said the prison didn’t have the correct length needles.

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