Tragic, Botched Oklahoma Execution Renews Call to Abolish the Death Penalty

Posted May 7, 2014

MP3 Interview with Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, conducted by Scott Harris

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On the evening of April 29, the scheduled execution of two death row inmates got underway in Oklahoma. Prison officials administered a lethal injection to inmate Clayton Lockett, who was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1999 shooting of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, whom his accomplice buried alive. Witnesses reported that Lockett gasped for air and writhed on the execution gurney shortly after the lethal drugs were injected. Prison authorities later explained that due to a collapsed vein, the needle was inserted into Lockett’s groin area instead of the arm after prison officials used a Taser to restrain him. Just over seven minutes after the execution protocol had begun, Lockett was pronounced dead of a heart attack. The scheduled second execution of Charles Warner was postponed by 14 days.

An important element in the status of American capital punishment today, is the shortage of lethal drugs used by Oklahoma and other states to execute prisoners. The only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, a key ingredient in lethal injections, stopped making the drug in 2011. But when death-penalty states attempted to purchase the drug from European manufacturers, the supply was shut down due to the European Union’s commitment to abolish the death penalty around the world. Now states are experimenting with different combinations of lethal drugs, with some turning to compounding pharmacies, which are subjected to little oversight by the federal government.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, who discusses the circumstances surrounding the botched execution of Clayton Lockett and the ongoing national campaign to abolish the death penalty.

Find more information on the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty by visiting ncadp.org.

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