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July 24, 2014

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Execution delayed while Okla. investigates botched lethal injection

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AP Photo/Oklahoma Department of Corrections

This photo combo of images provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Clayton Lockett, left, and Charles Warner.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma's attorney general agreed Thursday to a six-month stay of execution for a death row inmate while an investigation is conducted into last week's botched lethal injection.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office filed court documents Thursday saying it wouldn't object to a 180-day stay of execution being sought by attorneys for inmate Charles Warner while the investigation is underway.

Warner was scheduled for execution on the same night last week as Clayton Lockett in what would have been the state's first double execution since 1937. But Lockett's vein collapsed during his lethal injection, prompting prison officials to halt the execution. He later died of a heart attack.

Gov. Mary Fallin then issued a two-week stay of execution for Warner, but his attorneys asked for a six month delay. Pruitt's office agreed in a motion filed with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and if the court agrees, Warner's execution would be postponed until Nov. 13.

"Should additional time be needed for the implementation of any changes or adjustments, the state will request it," Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham wrote.

Lockett writhed on the gurney, gritted his teeth, lifted his head several times and moaned before dying of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the start of his execution. A doctor inside the death chamber during the execution reported that Lockett's vein collapsed and some of the lethal drugs were absorbed into his tissue or leaked out.

The curtains that allow witnesses to view the execution were closed about 16 minutes into the lethal injection, after Lockett had been showing signs of distress for several minutes. The director of the state's prison system, Robert Patton, then called off the execution, but Lockett died about 10 minutes later.

Patton released a report saying Lockett had an intravenous tap placed at his groin because suitable veins couldn't be found elsewhere in his body. That vein collapsed, and Patton said Lockett didn't have another viable one — and that the state didn't have another dose of the drugs available.

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