An independent autopsy of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett – whose botched execution in April inflamed national debate about the death penalty – revealed that the official explanation was erroneous at best, if not an outright lie.
As was widely reported, Oklahoma officials used an experimental combination of lethal drugs and blamed their failure to produce death on a collapsed or “blown” vein. However, the autopsy ordered by Lockett’s legal team paints a picture of incompetence on the part of those performing the execution and specifically cites the excellent condition of Lockett’s veins. The preliminary findings of Dr. Joseph I. Cohen describe puncture wounds in the arms and the femoral area on both sides, consistent with multiple attempts at placing an IV. The IV was eventually placed improperly, allowing the drugs to be administered into muscle tissue instead:
[box type=”shadow”]The preliminary autopsy findings and assessments of the independent autopsy include 1)evidence of prior autopsy examination, 2) the presence of skin punctures on the extremities, and right and left femoral areas indicative of needle punctures, injections and/or attempts at vascular access, 3) the presence of superficial and deep subcutaneous hemorrhages indicative of attempted vascular access for administration of fluids and medications, 4) the presence of vascular injury indicative of failed vascular catheter access,
5) the presence of body surface blunt impact injuries, consistent with physical restraint,
requiring further investigation and correlation with historical information, 6) the presence of antemortem sharp force injury consistent with, though not confirmatory for self-inflicted injury, 7) excellent integrity of peripheral and deep veins for the purpose of achieving venous access, 8) the inability to confirm the presence of any significant underlying natural disease processes, 9) the unlikelihood that antemortem dehydration played a role in a failed or ineffective lethal injection procedure, and 10) the inability to confirm that a primary
cardiac condition played any role in Mr. Lockett’s death (i.e., a heart attack).[/box]
Dr. Cohen’s inability to determine a cause of death may be explained by the fact that “The heart and a portion of the neck structures” were not available for him to examine. Further, the report seems to indicate that Lockett’s first autopsy was less than thorough:
[box type=”shadow”]The independent autopsy examination involved the performance of several new and extended body surface incisions that uncovered punctures, evidence of attempted vascular access, and vascular injury that would not have been visible during the first autopsy, as additional autopsy dissection was necessary to expose the new findings.[/box]
The person responsible for placing the IV was initially described as a phlebotomist, but after a Tulsa World investigation, officials declared that it was an EMT.
Another independent autopsy has been scheduled in Texas. We can only hope that the truth comes out and that America engages in a serious examination of the ethical aspects of the death penalty.
H/T Think Progress