TIME Crime

Oklahoma Governor Suspends Executions Until Independent Review Completed

Mary Fallin Execution Lethal Injection
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, chair of the National Governors Association, waits for the arrival of President Barack Obama to speak to members of the National Governors Association at the White House on Feb. 24, 2014 Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Gov. Mary Fallin halted the state's executions on Wednesday until an independent review looks into why a death row inmate convulsed and twitched multiple times during a 43-minute lethal injection this week that witnesses described as "unsettling"

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin announced an independent review of the state’s execution protocols Wednesday, following the botched execution of death-row inmate Clayton Lockett, and suspended a second planned execution until after the investigation is completed.

The review will include an investigation into Lockett’s cause of death, a review of the current Oklahoma department of corrections’ execution protocol and recommendations on how to improve the procedure.

Lockett died Tuesday night following a 43-minute execution that witnesses described as unsettling and chaotic. According to reports, Lockett convulsed and twitched multiple times and appeared to lift his upper body off the execution table. Prison officials lowered a curtain to shield witnesses from watching. Approximately half an hour later, officials pronounced Lockett dead of a heart attack.

The incident has put a spotlight on the problems states are having carrying out lethal-injection death sentences around the country. Lockett’s execution came after months of legal back-and-forth in Oklahoma involving a secrecy law that protects the anonymity of drugmakers who provide lethal-injection drugs to states. Charles Warner, who was also set to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, was given a 14-day stay of execution. Fallin said Warner’s stay would be extended if the independent review wasn’t completed by that time.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the death penalty must be carried out humanely in the U.S.

“I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard,” he said.

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