Autopsy reveals flaws in Oklahoma execution system

Clayton Lockett died in April, following a botched execution that authorities blamed on a chance collapse of Lockett's vein. Autopsy results suggest that wasn't the case, pinning blame instead on the Department of Corrections.

Preliminary autopsy results show that Lockett's veins had "excellent integrity". Judging by that, and by the multiple puncture wounds in Lockett's arms and femoral artery area, the pathologist who did the preliminary autopsy is concluding that the Department of Corrections phlebotomist who set the line for the execution drugs punctured Lockett's veins, while trying to insert the catheter. That's significant because phlebotomists aren't actually licensed to start IVs in the state of Oklahoma. So the DOC had someone doing a job they weren't licensed to do, which might have led to an execution that didn't meet the standard against cruel and unusual punishment.

The release notes "serious questions about the training of the personnel who performed the execution."

"The Department of Corrections timeline states that the IV was set by a phlebotomist, which was confirmed by the governor's office, but when Tulsa World questioned the assertions, both state agencies reversed their positions and said it was an EMT, whose name has not been revealed," the release states.

A 2011 state law prohibits the release of all information about participants in executions. DOC has refused to say whether the EMT present was a paramedic, as required by its protocol.

Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University who has published numerous articles about the death penalty, said Cohen's report indicates "extraordinary incompetence on the part of the execution team."

A second autopsy is in the works.