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Sunday, December 11, 2016

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin promised an independent review of the state’s execution protocols Wednesday after a bungled execution raised questions about the state’s handling of capital punishment.

The Republican governor emphasized, however, that she has faith that state officials were legally correct in proceeding with the execution over the objections of defense lawyers.

“I believe the legal process worked,” Fallin said, “I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment for those who commit heinous crimes.”

Witnesses have said that convicted murderer Clayton Lockett began writhing and mumbling after prison officials administered the lethal injection Tuesday and also was twitching on the gurney. Officials said Lockett subsequently died of a heart attack.

A second execution had been scheduled for Tuesday, but Fallin postponed it for two weeks.

At a Wednesday briefing at the capitol, Fallin said she will postpone that execution again if the review by the state’s public safety commissioner is not completed by then.

The review, she said, will focus on determining Lockett’s cause of death and the procedures by which it was carried out, along with evaluating the state’s execution standards.

She said the state medical examiner will authorize an independent pathologist to determine Lockett’s cause of death.

“It will be the first step in evaluating our state’s execution protocols,” Fallin said.

Fallin declined to comment when asked whether she had in effect stayed executions indefinitely.

She also declined to react to a White House statement Wednesday saying Locket’s execution fell short of humane standards.

Fallin had been an ardent supporter of Lockett’s execution, promising to carry it out despite a stay from the state’s Supreme Court.

Lockett, 38, was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman in 1999 and burying her alive. The inmate whose execution Fallon stayed, Charles Warner, 46, was convicted in the rape and murder of an 11-month-old girl in 1997.

Fallin detailed their crimes during Wednesday’s briefing, and reiterated her belief that justice had been served.

She said Lockett “was convicted at trial by a jury of his peers” and “had his day in court.”