For supporters of the death penalty, this will be a busy week: Georgia, Florida and Missouri all have executions scheduled, amid widespread controversy over the methods states are now using to put inmates to death.
These will be the first executions since Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton Lockett. In Lockett’s case, things went so badly that officials closed the curtain to block the view from the spectators’ gallery. Lockett writhed for long minutes after receiving drug injections until he succumbed to a heart attack 43 minutes later. Reporters who witnessed it said it was by far the worst since Oklahoma resumed executions 24 years ago, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin stayed for 14 days the execution of inmate Charles Frederick Warner that was also scheduled for that same night.
In response to the horrific scene, Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said, “In Oklahoma’s haste to conduct a science experiment on two men behind a veil of secrecy, our state has disgraced itself before the nation and world.”
Oklahoma used its new three-drug protocol that has been the subject of intense legal challenges in Oklahoma courts. States have had to come up with new and creative ways to kill people after the traditional pharmaceutical companies started refusing to supply them with lethal drugs to be used for executions.
Ten minutes after administration, the first drug, midazolam, brought Lockett to unconsciousness, which is the drug’s purpose. Three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, thrashing and straining to lift his head, according to media witnesses. Lockett reportedly said the word “man” from the gurney.
Officials then decided to lower the blinds to prevent viewers from seeing inside the death chamber. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton told reporters Lockett’s vein line had “blown.”
Asked what that meant, Patton said the vein had “exploded.”
Like Oklahoma and others, the three states with executions this week have refused to disclose the suppliers of the lethal injection drugs that will be used.
Marcus Wellons of Georgia, who is being executed for the murder 15-year-old India Roberts in 1989, is set to die at 7 p.m. Tuesday. “Following the execution of Clayton Lockett, we know very well that the risk of extreme torture in lethal injection is incredibly real, and states like Georgia can no longer ask the public to trust that lethal injections are humane,” said Kathryn Hamoudah, chair of the board of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “Mr. Wellons is going to be executed in a completely not transparent way. The problem with secrecy is there are no checks and balances.”
Florida death row inmate John Henry, who stabbed his ex-wife and her 5-year-old son to death in 1985, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday. Also on Wednesday will be the execution of Missouri death row inmate Jon Winfield, convicted of killing two people and blinding his wife during a 1996 shooting rampage.