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Oklahoma Governor Calls For Review Of Botched Execution

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered an "independent review" of the state's execution procedures and halted any further executions until the review is complete.

The move comes a day after Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton D. Lockett. As we reported, after a long legal and political battle, the state proceeded with Lockett's execution using a novel combination of drugs.

The state's Department of Corrections said Lockett's veins failed and the cocktail did not properly make its way into his system. Reporters who witnessed the execution describe him writhing and bucking in apparent pain.

Lockett died of a heart attack after officials called off his execution and more than an hour after the execution was scheduled to begin.

"[Lockett] had his day in court," Fallin said in a televised press conference. "I believe the legal process worked. I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment to those who commit heinous crime against their fellow men and women. However, I also believe the state needs to be certain of its protocols and its procedures for executions and that they work."

Lockett was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old and then having her buried alive.

As Scott reported earlier, the Lockett execution has raised questions about the lethal injection. It has also brought to the forefront the national battle over the drugs used in executions.

Over the past few months, the United States has seen a flurry of legal challenges to death sentences, because drug companies, citing political and physical threats, have stopped supplying states with traditional execution drugs.

States, in turn, have been using new combinations for executions and have refused to reveal the names of their suppliers because they say doing so would jeopardize the relationship.

Fallin said the review will be led by Michael Thompson, the state's Department of Public Safety commissioner.

Fallin said she expects the review, which will employ an independent pathologist, will determine how Lockett died and whether corrections officials followed current protocol.

Thompson, Fallin said, will also issue recommendations on how the state can handle executions better.

Lawyers for Lockett and Charles F. Warner, the convicted rapist and murderer who was scheduled to be executed last night as well, had argued that something like this could happen. They called Oklahoma's execution procedures "experimental."

On Wednesday, Amnesty International called for an end to the death penalty.

"The global trend is clear: the world is moving away from capital punishment," Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins said in a statement. "It's time for the 32 states in our nation that retain the death penalty to do the same. Amnesty urges Oklahoma to announce an immediate end to executions and an investigation into Lockett's death."

Update at 4:32 p.m. ET. Calls For Third-Party Investigation:

In an open letter, eight former corrections officials say correctional officers should never be in the position to witness what turned out to be "a horrific death."

The group, with the backing of the Constitution Project, which advocates for an end to the death penalty, said Oklahoma should order an independent investigation by a third party.

"No individual should be asked to carry out an execution using experimental drugs and dosages or without proper training and medical expertise. We cannot know how last night's events happened without a full independent inquiry by a credible, outside third party whose findings should be made public," the letter reads.

Among those signing it are Allen Ault, former commissioner the Georgia, Mississippi and Colorado Departments of Corrections; Terry J. Collins, the former head of the Michigan Department of Corrections and Steve J. Martin, the former legal counsel to the Texas Department of Corrections.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.