Record of execution proceedings shown to Al Jazeera describes fraught moments leading up to botched execution

Originally published in Al Jazeera America – May 2, 2014

Oklahoma prison guards shocked Clayton Lockett with a Taser in the moments leading up to his botched execution this week, according to minutes of the event obtained Friday by Al Jazeera.

Lockett, 38, had reportedly refused a verbal order to be restrained before he was taken to the death chamber on Tuesday.

“After giving a verbal order to be restrained, offender Lockett refused, and an electronic shock device (Taser) was administered,” the minutes said.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections declined to offer further comment at time of publication, pending a state review of the execution.

Evan J. Mandery, a death penalty expert and chair of the criminal justice department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told Al Jazeera he’s “never heard of” a death row inmate being shocked by Tasers or putting up a fight prior to execution.

“But executions aren’t exactly a model of transparency,” he said.

Opponents of the death penalty have argued to Al Jazeera that capital punishment cases and executions are often less “rational” than other U.S.-based litigation and punishment.

In death penalty cases, there is often “more theater and symbol than a rational process that attempts to arrive at the truth and the best resolution of the case,” Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told Al Jazeera after the release of a report late last month estimating that 4.1 percent of inmates sentenced to death are innocent.

Lockett’s execution has garnered criticism from international governments and media.

At a joint briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday at the White House, President Barack Obama said the issues surrounding the execution “raise significant questions about how the death penalty is applied.”

Obama said he plans to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss “what steps are being taken broadly in this area.”

Lockett had been convicted in 1999 of killing Stephanie Nieman, 19, and burying her in a shallow grave.

Witnesses at the execution said Lockett writhed in pain after the administration of a new combination of lethal drugs. The mixture of chemicals was at the center of a State Supreme Court case that had delayed the execution on grounds that the cocktail caused unnecessary pain and so amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

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