Two news organizations filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the Oklahoma prison officials saying that they violated the First Amendment when they kept reporters from viewing parts of a botched execution that took place earlier this year.
Clayton Locket was the death row inmate whose execution started the lawsuit. The man moaned, clenched his teeth, writhed and looked as if he were feeling pain for 43 minutes after he was injected with the supposedly lethal combination of drugs that was supposed to kill him in less than a minute. The execution failed so miserably, that it was stopped after it was discovered there was a problem with an intravenous line that delivered the injection. Unfortunately, Locket died of a heart attack after writhing in pain for 43 minutes.
What bothered the news organizations was the fact that the prison officials lowered the shades at the viewing of the execution 16 minutes after the man was administered the three-drug injection. The witnesses’ view of the inmate was blocked and now the Oklahoma Observer and the Guardian US are asking a federal judge they be allowed to observe a complete execution.
Jerry Massie, Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesperson, refused to comment on the filing of the papers, by stating that the department does not discuss any pending litigation.
A full report of Lockett’s death has not been released, but officials at the penitentiary said that his vein collapsed while the lethal injection was being administered to him. The lawsuit filed on Monday alleges prison officials used the shade to block the view of the procedure from the witnesses who had the legal right to be there and view the procedure.
According to the lawsuit:
The assembled press was denied the opportunity to observe Clayton Lockett entering the execution chamber and his intravenous lines being prepared and inserted.
The shade was lifted when the execution began, but lowered again in the middle of the procedure prematurely terminating press access.
The lawsuit continues:
Meaningful access to, and oversight of, execution proceedings is critical to the public’s and the courts’ ability to assess the propriety and lawfulness of the death penalty. The public is deprived of the right to receive information about, and discuss the propriety of, the execution method if it is denied access to critical details of the state’s execution proceedings.
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