Missouri shrouds its executions in secrecy. It's time to end the state's death penalty 

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Both states cling to secrecy to protect those methods, despite evidence suggesting that inmates are at risk for painful, unconstitutional deaths.

Both states share a history of botching executions.

And both states, for these reasons, should stop executing prisoners.


Clayton Lockett's execution started the way Dean Sanderford expected. 

Sanderford, a defense attorney for Lockett who had never before seen an execution, joined several reporters, Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials and other witnesses to view the death of 38-year-old Lockett, convicted in the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman.

Around 6:30 p.m., Lockett was given midazolam, a short-acting sedative designed to render him unconscious.

Midazolam was one of three drugs Oklahoma was using in an untested cocktail of drugs. The same drug was used in an apparently botched execution earlier this year in Ohio. (In January, Dennis McGuire was killed using an untested two-drug combination; witnesses reported signs of distress before he died.)

Charles Tullius, an anesthesiologist at Coastal Carolina Hospital in South Carolina, says the midazolam dose that Lockett received was about 10 times the amount he would administer for a therapeutic procedure such as a colonoscopy.

"He looked like a guy falling asleep," Sanderford tells The Pitch. "It reminded me of ... light sleep where you're kind of aware of what was going on but you're still dreaming."

Once the prison warden announced that Lockett was receiving two other drugs that would kill him, Sanderford says Lockett began to twitch and seemed to be coming out of his chemically induced slumber. Twitches quickly gave way to bucking and thrashing against the restraints that kept Lockett pinned to a gurney. Sanderford says Lockett was trying to speak, though he couldn't understand what his client was saying. Other media reports suggest that Lockett was saying, "Oh, man." One thing seemed clear: Lockett was awake and suffering.

At that point, corrections officials lowered a curtain to prevent witnesses from seeing what happened next.

"The curtain drops, and I would say there were seven or eight DOC employees in the witnessing room," Sanderford recalls. "I can tell you they looked as horror-struck as anyone else did. ... They're constantly calling one DOC guy out and another guy out, running back and forth, clearly not having any idea about what was going on and panicking about what was going on."

Twenty-five minutes after the curtain fell, and 45 minutes after the execution began, Lockett was pronounced dead. The prison warden told witnesses that the execution had been halted. Charles Warner's execution, scheduled for later that evening, was postponed.

"I think even more than what I saw, what haunts me more about it is knowing there was a 25-minute period where no one knew what was going on, and we have every reason to believe it was getting worse and worse and worse," Sanderford says. "I just can't stop thinking about that."

Prison officials say Lockett suffered a major heart attack. Sanderford says he has since heard from anesthesiologists who believe that explanation is dubious, both because the diagnosis was made so quickly and because they believe Lockett more likely suffocated to death from a paralytic drug he had received as part of the execution cocktail.

Tullius suspects that the line delivering the drugs missed Lockett's vein.

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