SAPULPA — “Anti-death penalty zealots” are causing shortages of execution drugs and contributing to the uncertainty marking lethal injection, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Thursday.
Speaking to the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce, Pruitt said “issues with administration” of a three-drug combination, and not the drugs themselves, appear to have been the reason that murderer Clayton Lockett’s death took much longer — about 43 minutes — than expected.
Indicating some irritation at criticism of the “cocktail” of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride used in Lockett’s execution, Pruitt said it did more or less what it was supposed to do.
“There were obviously issues with administration. … There were circumstances (Corrections Department) officials need to be able to handle,” Pruitt said. “But we also know (Lockett) was unconscious after seven minutes. It did take 43 minutes for his ultimate demise, but he was unconscious after seven minutes.
“I believe the state takes its job seriously. Up until this last execution, they’d done it … so well (that) some people believe if anything happens and it takes more than five minutes, it must violate the Eighth Amendment. That’s not the case.”
Pruitt spoke at some length about Lockett’s victim, 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, and the lengthy appeals process that followed Lockett’s conviction.
“Ultimately,” Pruitt said, “we must keep in mind that justice was served in that situation.”
Midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride had been used by other states in executions but not in the same proportions used on Lockett. Oklahoma had never used the three drugs.
Pruitt emphasized the difficulty in obtaining drugs for lethal injection and said the combination previously used by Oklahoma had become impossible to obtain.
“You have anti-death penalty zealots around the globe that protest, that bring attention to the manufacturers of these drugs,” Pruitt said. “Supply issues are going to continue because of the pressure that’s applied to these manufacturers.
“The state has to find an answer to that if the viability of lethal injection is to continue.”