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Drugs killed Oklahoma inmate in troubled execution: report

OKLAHOMA CITY--A death row inmate who writhed, moaned and clenched his teeth before he was pronounced dead about 43 minutes after his execution began succumbed to the lethal drugs he was administered, not a heart attack, after the state's prisons chief halted efforts to kill him, an autopsy report released Thursday says.

Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton had said inmate Clayton Lockett died from a heart attack several minutes after he ordered the execution stopped. But an independent autopsy performed for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety says all three execution drugs Lockett was administered were found throughout his system.

The report, performed by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, concluded that the cause of death was “judicial execution by lethal injection.” But it does not answer why the execution took so long and why Lockett writhed on the gurney.

Lockett's attorney, David Autry of Oklahoma City, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. But Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix, who represents a group of Oklahoma death row prisoners who commissioned an independent autopsy of Lockett, said more information is needed.

“What this initial autopsy report does not appear to answer is what went wrong during Mr. Lockett's execution, which took over 45 minutes, with witnesses reporting he writhed and gasped in pain,” Baich said in a statement.

Oklahoma put executions on hold after Lockett gasped and writhed against his restraints for several minutes after his April 29 execution began. Lockett was poked a dozen or so times as medical technicians tried to find a vein before settling on using one at his groin.

Officials at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester have said Lockett's vein collapsed during the lethal injection process.

Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered public safety officials to review the events surrounding Lockett's death, including state execution protocols that had been changed in the weeks before Lockett's execution. The state Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to not schedule executions for six months. Three are set for mid-November and early December.

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