Death penalty drugs are getting new attention after the botched execution of an inmate in Oklahoma on Tuesday. The incident raises questions about the death penalty and the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution regarding cruel and unusual punishment.
Prison officials say Clayton Lockett ruptured a vein and went into violent convulsions for several minutes after the drugs started flowing.
He’s the first inmate in Oklahoma to receive a new combination of execution drugs.
Oklahoma, like Texas, had to change drug suppliers because European companies opposed to the death penalty stopped selling to the U.S.
Texas residents don't know who supplies the drugs, because that is kept secret.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday that what happened in Oklahoma would probably not happen in Texas for several reasons.
“It’s my understanding that the protocol in Texas is different from the protocol used in Oklahoma,” said Abbott.
While Oklahoma uses three drugs in its executions, Texas uses one – phenobarbital, which is provided to the state by secret suppliers who run the risk of backlash if their names are made public.
Abbott declined to say whether that policy might change.
“I think we have a ruling pending on that that, and I’m not going to front run that ruling,” he said.
Local criminal defense attorneys say the names of suppliers should be made public to eliminate speculation about what happens in the death chamber.
“Doing all this behind some veil of secrecy is the antithesis of what goes on in America,” said criminal defense attorney George Milner. “And they won’t say who made the drug, they won’t say the quantities they are using. They’re just, they’re going behind a wall of secrecy, saying, ‘We’re gonna kill him. Trust us – we’re doing it the right way.’”
Abbott pointed out the problem may have been with Clayton's veins, and not with the drugs. Although, Lockett’s attorney says there was nothing physically wrong with his client.
In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin ordered a 14-day stay of execution for death row inmate Charles Warner, who was scheduled to die two hours after Lockett.
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