By JAMES BEATY
Senior Editor McAlester News-Capital
State Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, said his thoughts turned to Clayton Lockett’s murder victim when he learned Lockett had died of a heart attack shortly after his formal execution was halted because of problems with the lethal drug injection process.
Lockett was convicted of kidnapping, terrorizing and killing Stephanie Nieman, 19, in rural Kay County 15 years ago. Authorities said he shot Nieman twice, then ordered two companions to bury her alive as she pleaded for her life.
“I wonder if she had a heart attack?” said Renegar. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, Nieman “was still alive and choking on dirt as they buried her.”
McAlester’s other state representative, Democrat Donnie Condit, had a different reaction. He said it was “tragic” that the execution did not go as planned. He said he knows from a visit to the state prison and the death chamber shortly after being elected to office that procedures are in place should something go wrong during an execution.
Robert Patton, director of the state Department of Corrections, said the execution was stopped 20 minutes into the process when Lockett’s vein used for the drug injection collapsed, causing his body to convulse. He was unconscious at the time and died shortly afterwards of a heart attack, said Patton.
Gov. Mary Fallin promptly ordered a 14-day stay for the execution of condemned convict Charles Warner, who was scheduled to be put to death two hours after Lockett.
Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, said he witnessed the execution process until prison officials lowered the blinds to prevent the gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber.
“It was a horrible thing to witness,” he told the Associated Press. “This was totally botched."
The process involved the intravenous injection of three drugs: midazolam as a sedative to create unconsciousness, vecuronium to relax the muscles, and potassium chloride to stop the heart from beating.