The three-drug protocol used in most executions was devised by former Oklahoma medical examiner Jay Chapman, says NPR. Last week’s botched execution, in the same state where the technique was developed, raised questions about execution norms. Executions are carried out by people and people sometimes make mistakes. Many struggle with their involvement for years to come. Doctors and nurses, skilled in the art of finding veins, may no longer agree to participate in executions.
Former prison officers say putting a dog to sleep is one thing; killing a person is something else entirely. “This is not normal behavior for right-minded humans to engage in,” says Steve Martin, who participated in executions in Texas in the 1980s. Carroll Pickett was the chaplain at 95 executions in Texas. He remembers one time prison staff spent 40 minutes trying to find a vein until the inmate sat up and helped them. “Some of them would go outside and throw up,” he says. Over time, Pickett says, the staff unraveled. “And these were some good, good men. Basically, they all left. Every one of them,” he says. Corrections officials in Oklahoma anticipate that a court will postpone next week’s scheduled execution until officials are certain what went wrong last week.