Oklahoma's bungled execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett this week was a medical experiment gone wrong, says the Washington Post. As pharmaceutical companies have halted sales of drugs used in executions, as legal challenges have mounted and medical groups have vowed to ostracize doctors who participate in sanctioned killings, states have found themselves winging it when it comes to carrying out lethal injections. In their scramble to carry out death sentences, prison officials have made secret handoffs of lethal-injection drugs. State workers have carried stacks of cash into unregulated compounding pharmacies to purchase chemicals for executions. Some states have relied on unproved drug cocktails, saying they must conceal the drugs’ source to protect suppliers from legal action and harassment.
“It looks like a street-level drug deal,” said Dean Sanderford, a lawyer for Lockett. “And they're keeping all the information secret from us. . . . They don't need to be carrying out any more executions until they come clean, until we know exactly what happened with Clayton's execution and everything about these drugs, where they're getting them.” The new era in death row improvisation has produced disturbing results, even before the debacle in Oklahoma, in which Lockett thrashed on a gurney before dying from an apparent heart attack after 43 minutes. Oklahoma's corrections director said the vein line meant to administer lethal drugs into Lockett's body had “exploded” and that the drugs were not having the intended effect.