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Autopsy Requested By Death Row Attorneys Shows Lockett's Vein Did Not Collapse

Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Oklahoma Watch
Clayton Lockett

A private autopsy released Friday shows more evidence that the execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett wasn’t conducted properly, and the team carrying out the procedure didn’t properly place an IV into Lockett’s vein.

Forensic pathologist Joseph Cohen conducted the May 14 autopsy at the request of attorneys for several Oklahoma death row prisoners. The state initially said Lockett’s vein collapsed, which led to the drugs not being administered properly.

But Cohen said Lockett’s veins were in excellent shape for the procedure. The autopsy found that the execution team tried to set an IV in both arms and both sides of Lockett’s groin, eventually settling on the femoral vein.

Cohen described that procedure as more risky, difficult, and painful for the prisoner.

Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law, said in a statement Oklahoma had no contingency plan if the execution wasn't carried out properly.

“Lack of transparency is a pervasive problem with execution procedures,” McCracken said. “During Mr. Lockett’s execution, the Department of Corrections closed the blinds to the execution chamber so that the witnesses and press could not see what was happening for the 24 minutes leading up to the announcement that Mr. Lockett had died. Nothing is known about what happened during this timeframe, and it is one of many questions Dr. Cohen seeks answers to in order to complete his independent autopsy.”

Cohen said he still wants to see the documentation of tests and procedures performed during the State Medical Examiner's Office's autopsy, as well as information from the Dallas County ME's separate autopsy. He's also interested in the state Department of Corrections' policies and procedures pertaining to lethal injections, and complete records of how Lockett was treated prior to his execution.


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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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