murder

Oklahoma’s Botched Double Execution Controversy

An experimental cocktail of drugs used in the lethal injection of Oklahoma’s first double execution in 80 years improperly killed one man sparking controversy nationwide.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were both scheduled to be executed Tuesday, April 28, in an Oklahoma correctional center.

Lockett was first and was executed with a concoction of three drugs: midazolam to cause unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide to stop respiration and potassium chloride to stop the heart, the LA Times reports.

This mixture was injected into Lockett’s body and he appeared to be unconscious, but after several minutes passed, it was clear the injections weren’t having the anticipated effects. He began twitching and eventually seizing.

Lockett eventually died of a massive heart attack due to the explosion of a vein, USA Today said.

The botched execution is only part of the controversy at hand. The constitutional whirlwind taking place in Oklahoma is causing an even bigger uproar as the state Supreme Court reversed itself as a reaction to pressure from Oklahoma officials to proceed with the executions.Robert Patton

The Oklahoma state Supreme Court responded to a civil suit filed by Lockett and Warner requesting information on the lethal drugs to be used during the execution. Justices delayed the double execution in a 5-4 decision, putting into question the state’s injection secrecy law which allows state officials to keep basic information about the injections under wraps.

Soon after that decision was made, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin stated that she would not follow the Supreme Court’s orders and threatened to proceed with the state appellate court’s decision to carry on with the execution, according to the LA Times.

Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Mike Christian also refused to accept the state Supreme Court’s orders and introduced impeachment proceedings against each of the justices, The Week said.

Both officials believe that the Oklahoma Supreme Court overstepped its boundaries by delaying the case because of a state law that separates the duties of the two high courts.

The appellate court manages civil matters and the Supreme Court manages criminal matters, so Gov. Fallin and Rep. Christian do not believe the justices had a right to delay the execution, The Week said.

The Supreme Court reversed itself a day later stating that Lockett and Warner were given adequate information. The delay was removed, keeping the executions on-track with the April 28 date, the LA Times reports.

Since Lockett’s failed execution, Warner’s execution has been postponed for two weeks by Gov. Fallin who asked for a review of the state’s execution procedures to determine what exactly went wrong.

Questions about the constitutionality of the death penalty are rapidly surfacing.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, spoke out against the continuance of the death penalty in Oklahoma until the procedures there, and in other states practicing the death penalty, become transparent.

“Tonight, in a climate of secrecy and political posturing, Oklahoma intends to kill two death row prisoners using an experimental new drug protocol, including a paralytic, making it impossible to know whether the executions will comport with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual suffering,” she said before the execution, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Oklahoma isn’t the only state with lethal injection secrecy laws. Missouri and Louisiana do as well, resulting very little information on the execution procedure. Other states, like Georgia, are debating the constitutionality of introducing these secrecy laws.

The impact of this case is far reaching, as the nation is questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty altogether, the capability of prison authorities to administer lethal injections and whether or not these injections violate the 8th Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

For now, Gov. Fallin has not said if Warner’s two week period could be extended, so he and Cohen will wait for results of Lockett’s execution review and proceed from there.

Marissa Devault Sentenced to Life in Prison

Marissa Devault was sentenced to life in prison on April 30 for the murder of her husband in 2009.

On April 9, 2014, Marissa Devault of Gilbert was convicted for bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer in 2009. The trial took many turns amid conflicting statements from the defendant and witnesses as the jury worked to determine whether Devault should be sentenced to death or spend her life in prison.Marissa Devault Convicted

Marissa Devault’s husband, Dale Harrell, was found in the master bedroom of their home, his face and head severely beaten with a claw hammer on January 14, 2009.

At first, Devault claimed that her husband had strangled her unconscious, and when she woke up, she saw an invader beating him with a hammer. Later, she admitted to attacking him with a hammer in self-defense after he had sexually assaulted her, AZFamily reports.

Marissa Devault, 36, claimed that she “snapped,” according to AZ Central.

Harrell died in hospice care from head injury complications three weeks after the beating. Devault was on trial for first-degree murder at the time, with allegations of a decade of physical abuse and rape by her husband as her explanation.

Devault was indicted on March 4, 2009, according to Maricopa County Court records. It was determined she was mentally competent to stand trial on Sept. 14, 2010.

Prosecutors later claimed in court that Devault killed Harrell in an attempt to collect his life insurance as a way to pay back a loan from her suspected boyfriend, Allen Flores.

The course of the trial has been turbulent since the beginning, with a false confession from roommate, Stanley Cook, who suffers from brain damage-induced memory loss, to an ex-boyfriend who claims Devault told him to “take care” of the abusive husband who she initially told him had died of stomach cancer.

A string of ex-lovers have made statements to police, one of whom said he gave Devault $360,000 over the course of two years. The lover, Flores, stated the two met on a website designed to connect endowed men, or “sugar daddies,” to “women in financial need,” according to azcentral.com.

The conflicting statements by all parties complicated Devault’s accusations of abuse of her and her daughters.

On March 5, 2014, a controversy arose regarding the court usage of the interview of one of Devault’s daughters, who recently turned 18. Judge Roland Steinle barred the use of the interview in the trial unless the daughter testifies.

Jurors decided on Monday, April 14, that Devault had indeed killed her husband in an especially cruel manner, making her eligible for the death penalty. This opened the door for the jury to determine if Devault should be imprisoned for life or sentenced to death, according to AZFamily.

On Wednesday, April 30, the jury sentenced Devault to life in prison, and a judge will determine on June 1 if she will be eligible for parole, KPHO reports. Devault would have been the third Arizona woman to serve on death row.