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Witness, Protester Reaction To Thursday Night's Execution Of Charles Warner

Protesters with the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty rally and hold a vigil Thursday near the Governor's Mansion in Oklahoma City
Kate Carlton Greer
Protesters with the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty rally and hold a vigil Thursday near the Governor's Mansion in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma carried out its first execution Thursday night since the troubled lethal injection of an inmate in April.

Prison officials delayed Charles Warner's scheduled 6 p.m. execution while waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to grant a stay. Justices voted 5-4 against intervening in the case of Warner, who was convicted in the 1997 rape and beating death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

Read the dissent by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Warner was originally scheduled to die April 29 immediately after Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, moaned, and tried to lift his head after he'd been declared unconscious. Sean Murphy with the Associated Press was one of five members of the media chosen to witness Warner's lethal injection that took just under 20 minutes.

Murphy told fellow reporters the shades were lifted at 7:08 p.m., and witnesses saw Warner strapped to the gurney with intravenous lines in both arms.

Charles Frederick Warner
Credit Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Charles Frederick Warner

“[At] 7:20:30 his breathing appeared to stop as far as I could tell,” Murphy said. “There was no change at all from 7:23 until [Department of Corrections Director Robert] Patton entered the room, announced that the execution was complete, declared the time of death to be 7:28, and the blinds were lowered.”

Use of the sedative midazolam as part of a three-drug method had been challenged by Warner and other death row inmates as presenting an unconstitutional risk of pain and suffering.

“He didn’t appear to be suffering other than his statements that it felt like acid,” Murphy said. “But he didn’t show any obvious signs of distress. And then he said it again after the execution had started when he got the dose, he did say, ‘My body is on fire.’”

The Oklahoman's Graham Lee Brewer witnessed that April 29 execution when Lockett moaned and writhed on the gurney.

The Oklahoman's Graham Lee Brewer describes the scene in McAlester.

“It did seem like a much more peaceful process,” Brewer told KGOU. “The last five minutes of his life were fairly quiet. His breathing slowed, he closed his eyes, and he died at 7:28 p.m., 18 minutes after the drugs entered his veins. A definite departure from what we saw in April with the execution of Clayton Lockett.”

In Oklahoma City, protesters gathered along Northeast 23rd Street near the Governor’s Mansion to voice their objection to the execution.

KGOU’s Kate Carlton Greer reports the Rev. Adam Leathers from the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty stood with capital punishment protestors until a time of death was announced.


“We're not trying to say that people on death row are poor, misunderstood people,” Leathers said. “We're saying we as citizens should take the moral high ground and be better than them.”

KOSU’s Rachel Hubbard reported on Morning Edition Friday there were more than two dozen changes to Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol after Lockett’s execution.

"How do you actually figure out what’s going to happen? You can’t,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma’s legal director Brady Henderson. “You essentially have to experiment in a life-and-death situation.”


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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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