Today's Tulsa World reports, "State fails to autopsy most inmates," by Ziva Branstetter and Cary Aspinwall. Here's the beginning:
The state has conducted autopsies on less than half of the inmates executed in Oklahoma since 1990 and, in many cases, does not perform tests that could show whether inmates were awake and paralyzed as painful drugs flowed into their veins, a Tulsa World investigation has found.
Because state records are inconsistent and blood is sometimes drawn long after inmates die, it is difficult to say how many inmates were conscious when they received potassium chloride, the third drug in Oklahoma’s lethal injection process. Medical experts, judges and attorneys for the state agree that potassium chloride is excruciatingly painful if given to a conscious person.
The botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29 has sparked a nationwide discussion about the death penalty and new scrutiny in how Oklahoma and other states put people to death.
The World created a database using 109 medical examiner’s reports from Oklahoma inmates executed since 1990, including the levels of anesthetic in their blood following death where available. Experts in anesthesiology and clinical pharmacology reviewed the data to spot issues and problem cases.
The World also reports, "State's execution secrecy law passed quietly." It's also by Branstetter and Aspinwall.
A law that cloaks executions in secrecy and sparked a constitutional crisis in Oklahoma sailed through the state Legislature with scant debate.
When he introduced House Bill 1991 in 2011, then-Rep. Dan Sullivan described his legislation this way: “It changes the provisions as it relates to carrying out the death penalty. This is a request bill from the Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office.”
“It doesn’t change who can witness the deal, does it?” one lawmaker asked.
Sullivan, R-Tulsa, replied that the bill “doesn’t really change that.”
Without further debate, House lawmakers passed the bill 94-0. In the Senate, where debates are not videotaped, the measure received three no votes.
The bill did change procedures for carrying out the death penalty, deleting specific language about the type of drugs that would be administered in lethal injections. However, the bill would have a far more sweeping impact because it also provided complete anonymity to execution participants and suppliers.
Ziva Branstetter and Cary Aspinwall talked about their reporting on Oklahoma's botched lethal injection, last night, on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show. There is video at the link.
Rachel Maddow highlights reporting by the Tulsa World newspaper examining the extent of the dysfunction in the state’s death penalty system, including a crude means of communication with the executioners, poking colored pencils through a hole in the wall.
Earlier coverage from Oklahoma begins at the link.