ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) – Missouri attorneys and death penalty activists are promising action after an execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma was botched Tuesday night.
Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett was convicted of shooting a young woman and burying her alive in 1999. During his execution, he was writhing in pain after being declared unconscious. The execution was halted, but Lockett died of a heart attack, half an hour later.
Lockett’s execution used a new drug combination whose source is unknown. Missouri is another state, along with Oklahoma, that won’t reveal its execution drug source.
Margaret Phillips, with Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, says this secrecy is just too dangerous. She explains, “The states have had a harder and harder time coming up with the drugs. Because so many people are opposed to it, companies don’t want their drugs associated with killing, and so they’re scrambling to find them.”
Kansas City Attorney Cheryl Pilate represents 45 year-old Russell Bucklew, the next inmate slated for execution in Missouri. She also takes issue with the secrecy surrounding Missouri’s execution drug, pentobarbital: “We honestly have no idea where it comes from. They are answering no questions about it; they will not even tell us if the drug is tested. Which has led us to wonder if they’re getting it from a veterinary source, a dark corner of the Internet, another prison system, or a freelance pharmacist in his basement. We have no idea.”
In Missouri, appeals taking issue with the drug’s secrecy have routinely been denied. On behalf of Governor Jay Nixon, Press Secretary Scott Holste states, “This protocol has been upheld by the courts…The Governor continues to support the ultimate punishment imposed by juries and courts for the most merciless and violent crimes.”
So far, Missouri’s new single-drug execution method has worked properly in all six inmates who’ve been administered the drug.
Still, with the drug’s source a secret, Bucklew’s attorney says she doesn’t want to take any chances of a botched execution happening again. Pilate explains, “Unlike the crime, this is an act carried out by the state. The goal is not to replicate the harm inflicted during the crime, but to meet out a punishment consistent with the constitution.”
Meanwhile, the botched Oklahoma execution is also being discussed on the national stage. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that in this case, the death penalty was not carried out humanely.