OKLAHOMA CITY – A civil rights lawsuit against Oklahoma officials regarding the botched execution of an inmate will not move forward.
In 2014, the State of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett for killing 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in 1999.
The resulting 43-minute procedure featured a never-before-used combination of execution drugs and went awry as Lockett awoke from his unconscious state, and began twitching and convulsing on the table.
Lockett’s brother, Gary, sued several Oklahoma officials on the grounds that Clayton’s execution was “prolonged, painful, and torturous,” and constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Last November, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals maintained Lockett’s Constitutional rights were not violated.
Instead, the court ruled the mistakes represented “isolated mishaps” rather than deliberate attempts to inflict pain.
“Although we accept that Lockett’s execution was ‘unnecessarily prolonged and horribly painful,’ … the problems during Lockett’s execution fit under [an] exception for events that, ‘while regrettable, do not suggest cruelty,'” Judge Gregory Phillips wrote in his majority opinion, citing past cases. “‘Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of objectively intolerable risk of harm that qualifies as cruel and unusual.'”
Even though the court dismissed the lawsuit, Gary Lockett sought to have the lawsuit reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, the Supreme Court is declining to reinstate the civil rights lawsuit, leaving in place the lower court’s ruling.