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How we got here: The events leading up to Oklahoma’s botched execution

Lockett execution mug

So what led up to the botched execution?

How did Oklahoma get to this point?

It began in Oklahoma’s Kay County 14 years ago.

Kay County 2000 – It started in 2000 when Clayton Lockett was sentenced to death for the murder of Stephanie Neiman in Kay County.
Lockett and two other men also kidnapped two of Neiman’s friends during a robbery.
Lockett confessed to raping one of the women, shooting Neiman twice with a shotgun and ordered his two co-defendants to bury her in a shallow grave while she was still alive.

Oklahoma County 2003 – In 2003 Charles Warner was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1997 rape and murder of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter, Adriana Waller, in Oklahoma County.

Oklahoma 2011 – Before 2011, Departments of Corrections across the county got the execution drug cocktails directly from FDA-approved manufacturers based in Europe.
However, in 2011, the EU imposed tough sanctions and European manufacturers issued a boycott against providing drugs to the US for executions.
The same year the state of Oklahoma, and several other states, passed a law prohibiting the identification of all persons who participate in or administer the execution process and persons who supply the drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the identification of such people needs to be shielded in order to carry out the execution process.

Because no FDA-approved manufacturers are based in the United States, experts said they believe the state turned to compounding pharmacies, which manufacture their own drugs and are not strictly regulated by the FDA.

McAlester Jan. 2014 – Concerns rise regarding Oklahoma’s execution protocol, and whether or not they violate the Eighth Amendment guarantee from cruel or unusual punishment. The questions started when Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson was executed using compounded pentobarbital, a sedative. During the execution he said, “I can feel my whole body burning.” 

Oklahoma Feb. 2014 – In February, both Lockett and Warner completed their appeals process; their murder convictions and sentences were upheld.
The DOC set a March 20 execution date for Lockett and March 27 for Warner.
Later that month, the men filed a joint civil lawsuit against the DOC, alleging the secrecy statute that does not identify drug manufacturers is unconstitutional.
The men said the safety of the drugs cannot be guaranteed if we do not know who manufactured the drugs, citing Wilson’s painful execution and the belief compounded drugs were used.

Oklahoma March 2014 – During court proceedings in the men’s civil lawsuit, the AG announced he will push back the execution to April 22 for Lockett and April 29 for Warner because the state cannot get two of the three drugs needed to execute the men under the current protocol, despite a “herculean” effort to do so.

Oklahoma March 25, 2014 – Five new ways to die in Oklahoma. The AG’s office said it has adopted a new execution protocol that allows them to use five different methods for lethal injections.
Pruitt said in an interview this gives the state room to pivot between multiple drugs in case some are unavailable.

Oklahoma March 26, 2014Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish rules in the civil case that the Oklahoma secrecy statute is unconstitutional because it restricts the men’s access to the courts, as guaranteed by the state constitution.
The AG appeals that decision.

Oklahoma April 2014 – In April, the AG said he will continue execution preparations for the men despite the men’s ongoing legal battle to learn more about the drugs.
The state will use Midazolam to sedate the inmate, pancuronium bromide to stop their breathing and Potassium Chloride to stop their hearts.

Oklahoma April 21, 2014 – The day before Lockett’s scheduled execution, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issues a stay of execution for both men until all legal matters are resolved.
Gov. Mary Fallin said the Supreme Court has overstepped its bounds issuing a stay of execution. She maintained the state court can only hear civil cases and the court of criminal appeals, which earlier denied to hear the men’s application for stays of execution, is the only court with authority to issue a stay.
She scheduled both men to be executed on April 29.

Oklahoma April 25, 2014 – The Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolves its stay of execution for the men and rules the secrecy statute is constitutional and no additional information will be provided to the inmates about the drugs that will be used to kill them.

MORE: See the full coverage of the crimes, the execution drug issues and the botched execution