TIME Crime

Missouri Just Tied its Lethal Injection Record

Missouri Execution Taylor
Leon Taylor, sentenced to death in the killing of a gas station attendant, was executed by lethal injection early Wednesday morning. AP

Leon Taylor's lethal injection is the state's ninth this year

Missouri executed a convicted murderer, Leon Taylor, early Wednesday morning, the state’s ninth lethal injection this year and the most since Missouri’s record-setting pace in 1999.

Taylor, convicted of killing a Kansas City gas station attendant in 1994 in front of the worker’s 8-year-old stepdaughter, was executed with a single dose of pentobarbital. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declined to grant Taylor clemency, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing the inmate’s appeals to halt his execution.

According to witnesses and prison officials, the execution went off without problems. Several prolonged lethal injections in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona earlier this year were widely considered to have been botched.

Missouri’s pace of executions this year is now second only to Texas, which has carried out 10 lethal injections in 2014 so far. According to experts, Missouri is executing inmates at a higher rate in part because it seems to have an adequate supply of the sedative pentobarbital, allowing Missouri to execute a number of inmates who have been waiting on death row for years.

TIME energy

A Brief Guide to the Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

Construction Along The Keystone XL Pipeline
Workers move a section of pipe during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline, part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, in Atoka, Okla. on March 11, 2013. Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A handy explainer

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline?

It is a proposed extension of a pipeline that transports oil from Alberta, Canada to a major petroleum exchange in Cushing, Okla., and from there to the Gulf of Mexico. The existing smaller pipeline takes a more circuitous route. The Canadian company TransCanada’s solution is to build a larger-capacity, more direct link from Alberta to the existing pipeline. That project is known as Keystone XL.

Why is Obama involved?

Because the Keystone XL link would cross an international boundary between the U.S. and Canada, the project requires presidential approval. Proponents say Keystone XL will reduce the need to move oil by freight train—which can lead to potentially dangerous accidents—and create perhaps tens of thousands of jobs. President Obama, who has not taken a public position on the project, has cited a State Department analysis that concludes the pipeline will create only about 2,000 jobs during construction and 50 around permanent jobs once it’s complete.

Why is it controversial?

Climate activists have rallied around the Keystone XL pipeline as an environmental litmus test. They worry that it will intrude on property rights—courts have allowed TransCanada to run sections of the pipeline over private land, despite objections from the property owners –and warn that it could be vulnerable to environmentally dangerous leaks along its proposed 1,700 mile route. But their primary objection is that the project will encourage the burning of fossil fuels and worsen climate change. The oil shipped through the new pipe would come from Canada’s so-called tar sands, which climate activists say is dirtier and worse for the environment than regular oil.

A State Department review released in January found that Keystone XL would have little effect on the planet’s environmental health because the oil in Canada’s tar sands will be extracted and sold through another avenue if the project is blocked.

What happens next?

The southern portion of the Keystone pipeline connecting Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico will open for business in 2015. The northern extension—the one everyone’s arguing about—has yet to be approved. But the Dec. 6 runoff for the Louisiana Senate seat of Democrat Mary Landrieu gave the project a jolt in Washington, as Landrieu and her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, jockey to claim credit for getting it built. The House passed legislation sponsored by Cassidy allowing Keystone XL on Nov. 14 and the Senate votes on a similar measure backed by Landrieu on Nov. 18. President Obama has signaled that he may veto the legislation, but he has not taken a public stance. No matter what happens at the federal level, Keystone XL is likely to face court battles in states through which it passes.

TIME Oklahoma

U.S. House Candidate in Oklahoma Dies After Car Crash

Earl Emmitt Everett was attempting to cross Highway 62 when he was hit broadside by a westbound vehicle

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — An 81-year-old Democrat in the race for a U.S. House seat in eastern Oklahoma died from injuries he sustained in a car accident, police said Monday.

Earl Emmitt Everett, a retired school teacher and Korean War Veteran, died Sunday at a Tulsa hospital, said Fort Gibson Police Department investigator Stephen Farmer. Everett had been in a two-car accident Friday afternoon in Fort Gibson.

Everett was a decided underdog in his race against first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin for the 2nd District seat that stretches across 26 eastern Oklahoma counties, from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in the northeast to the Red River border with Texas in the south. An independent, Jon Douthitt, also is running for the seat.

Everett was attempting to cross Highway 62 when he was hit broadside by a westbound vehicle, Farmer said. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital.

Everett ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2012. Everett had said he decided to run again because he believed Mullin hadn’t done enough for voters in his district. He defeated recent college graduate Joshua Harris-Till in the June primary.

“We honor the memory of Mr. Everett, a Korean War veteran, and his desire to represent the people of eastern Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said in a statement. “Anyone that is willing to put their name on a ballot in order to be voted on by their peers as a public servant deserves our admiration and respect.”

Collins had recently said that the party hadn’t had any contact with Everett, even though he was a Democratic nominee.

Everett had told The Associated Press that the distance from his home in Fort Gibson to the party’s headquarters in Oklahoma City was a problem.

“I don’t have anything against the party, but they’re a little bit out of pocket for me,” Everett said.

TIME Religion

Secret Service Arrests Ten Commandments Statue Smasher

State workers for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services remove the damaged remains of a Ten Commandments monument from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds on Oct. 24, 2014 in Oklahoma City.
State workers for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services remove the damaged remains of a Ten Commandments monument from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds on Oct. 24, 2014 in Oklahoma City. Sean Murphy—AP

The assailant told authorities that Satan made him do it

Secret Service have arrested a man who allegedly slammed his car Thursday night into a controversial Ten Commandments monument near the state capital building in Oklahoma City. The statue is now smashed to pieces.

Officials said the suspect, whose name has not been released, ran his car into the monument at about 9:00 p.m. Thursday night, reportedly saying that Satan made him do it. Oklahoma City’s KOCO news station reported that the suspect also threatened to kill President Barack Obama and said he urinated on the monument before knocking it over.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued to have the monument removed, condemned the desecration of the statue. No evidence suggests there is a connection between this incident and a Satanic group wishing to install a monument to Satan alongside the Ten Commandments.

The vehicle involved in the incident was left at the scene and has been impounded.

[KOCO]

TIME justice

Oklahoma Changes Lethal Injection Protocol, But Keeps Controversial Drug

After an execution widely regarded as botched

The United States’ three executions this year widely considered botched all have at least one thing in common: they’ve all included the use of midazolam, a sedative previously unused in lethal injections.

In January, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire in a 25-minute lethal injection using a two-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. In April, Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett using midazolam as the first of three drugs in a process that took almost 45 minutes. And in July, Arizona used the same protocol as Ohio to execute Joseph Wood, another lethal injection that took close to two hours.

Late Tuesday, Oklahoma announced new lethal injection procedures requiring more training for executioners and contingency plans if any problems arise. The new protocol also reduces the number of media witnesses from 12 to five. On top of that, it provides the state with four different lethal injection drug combination options, two of which still involve midazolam in a dosage that is five times larger than what was used in Lockett’s execution.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections released the new guidelines this week without comment. But the move appears to be a way for the state to continue executions while opening the door for more desirable and, possibly, effective drugs that have become difficult to obtain.

“I think this represents a tension between the drugs they would prefer to use and what’s available,” says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment organization.

In April, Gov. Mary Fallin ordered an investigation into Lockett’s execution, which led to a report released in September by the Department of Public Safety that found that an IV line into Lockett’s groin had become dislodged and wasn’t immediately discovered. The agency made several recommendations for future executions, and the state’s department of corrections pledged to carry out most of them.

“This is in keeping with their position that the botched execution of Lockett was not due to the drugs used, but to the misplacement of the IV,” Dieter says. “To abandon midazolam might contradict this, and possibly leave them with no drugs to carry out the execution.”

Since pharmaceutical companies began denying states drugs like pentobarbital, a sedative that was widely used up until just a few years ago, midazolam has been easier for prison systems to get. And some states may fear that without it, they may not be able to carry out executions at all.

“I think states like Oklahoma are continuing to use midazolam because so far they can and they don’t know what else to do,” says Deborah Denno, a Fordham University professor who studies lethal injection.

TIME Crime

Woman Beheaded in Oklahoma During Workplace Fight

The assailant then tried to kill another woman after a workplace dispute

A man in Moore, Oklahoma, decapitated a woman during a workplace dispute before trying to kill another woman, authorities said Friday.

The incident took place at a Vaughn Foods Inc. distribution center in a town near Oklahoma City, The Daily Oklahoman reports.

The suspect, identified as Alton Alexander Nolan, 30, is accused of beheading one woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and stabbing another woman. The other woman was hospitalized; her condition is not known. Nolan was shot by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and hospitalized. He is expected to survive.

The names of the women and the shooter have not been released.

[The Daily Oklahoman]

TIME Crime

Oklahoma is Changing The Way it Carries Out Lethal Injections

The new execution guidelines come after a report detailed the chaotic scene during the prolonged killing of Clayton Lockett

Oklahoma will change how it conducts lethal injections following a recent state report detailing widespread problems in the prolonged execution of death row inmate Clayton Lockett.

Robert Patton, the director of the state’s Department of Corrections, announced Monday that he would implement every recommendation in the Sept. 4 report that he had the authority to carry out and will now be present in the lethal injection for all future executions. The report, conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, described a chaotic scene on April 29 as executioners attempted and failed multiple times to insert an IV into Lockett’s arms, neck and feet. Officials eventually settled on placing an IV in the inmate’s groin but used a needle that was too short and later became dislodged, allowing the sedative midazolam to leak into the surrounding tissues rather than the bloodstream.

The execution helped renew the public debate over capital punishment and led President Obama to order a review of its practice in the U.S.

The Oklahoma report made numerous suggestions for improving the state’s lethal injection protocol, including keeping the IV insertion point visible at all times, conducting formal training for executioners and maintaining additional execution drugs. Patton said the state will adopt most of those recommendations, but he disagreed with the widely-held view that the 43-minute execution was “botched.”

“The cause of death was judicial execution,” Patton said, according to the Tulsa World, echoing the findings of an autopsy released last month.

Jerry Massie, a spokesperson for Oklahoma’s DOC, said the prison system could not carry out a recommendation calling for only one execution a week because the governor and the courts set those dates. Massie said the DOC would be able to implement the rest of the recommendations without additional costs.

 

TIME Crime

Oklahoma Death Row Inmate Died From Lethal Injection, Not Heart Attack

An independent autopsy of death row inmate Clayton Lockett, who was executed in April at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., ruled that Lockett died as a result from the drugs administered to him by prison officials and not from a heart attack. AP

Autopsy reveals officials at "botched" execution attempted to tap a vein in Clayton Lockett's groin, chest, neck, both arms and one of his feet

An independent autopsy released Thursday declared that Clayton Lockett, an Oklahoma death row inmate whose botched execution in April caused the state to temporarily halt executions, died from “judicial execution by lethal injection” and not from a heart attack, as prison officials had concluded at the time.

The autopsy, conducted by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, Texas, detailed multiple locations where officials attempted to inject Lockett, including in the groin, chest, neck, both arms and one of his feet. Several puncture wounds were found in his neck and chest, the autopsy said.

Oklahoma executed Lockett, convicted in the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman, using a three-drug lethal injection protocol that included midazolam, vecuronium and potassium chloride. The execution took 51 minutes as prison officials struggled to find a vein to properly administer the drugs.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton has said that one of Lockett’s veins collapsed during the execution, which led officials to search for other access points. Ultimately, state executioners administered the drugs through Lockett’s groin, a highly unusual move. During the procedure, Lockett reportedly writhed and groaned on the execution table. Halfway through, prison officials used a curtain to block views of the chamber from those watching the execution in a nearby viewing room.

Following the lethal injection, Patton announced that Lockett died of a heart attack and that one of the lines had become dislodged and likely leaked drugs into the inmate’s surrounding tissues rather than directly into the bloodstream.

The independent autopsy released Thursday, however, found traces of all three drugs in Lockett’s system and declared that he died from the administered drugs. But the autopsy did not address the questions surrounding the prolonged execution and why it was so problematic.

“What this initial autopsy report does not appear to answer is what went wrong during Mr. Lockett’s execution, which took over 45 minutes, with witnesses reporting he writhed and gasped in pain,” said Dale Baich, an attorney for Oklahoma death row prisoners, in a statement.

Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered a review of the state’s execution procedures that is still ongoing while the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has delayed all executions in the state until November. The next lethal injection is set for Nov. 13.

TIME Crime

Oklahoma City Police Bid a Sad Goodbye to K-9 ‘Kye’

Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City, on Aug. 28, 2014.
Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City, on Aug. 28, 2014. Sue Ogrocki—AP

The dog was stabbed during a burglary

K-9 Kye, a three year old Belgian German Shepard, died Aug. 25 after being stabbed by a burglary suspect the day prior. Sgt. Stark tried to separate the dog and the suspect before fatally shooting the suspect.

TIME Religion

Oklahoma Catholics Drop Lawsuit After Satanists Return Wafer

Satanic Mass Lawsuit
In this Feb. 11, 2011 file photo, Archbishop Paul Coakley, center, holds a communion wafer as he is installed as the fourth archbishop of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese in a ceremony at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, in Edmond, Okla. Jim Beckel—AP

A Satanic group had planned to use the communion wafer in a ritual scheduled for next month

The Catholic Archbishop of Oklahoma City has dropped a lawsuit against a Satanic group after it agreed to turn over a communion wafer it hoped to use in a “Black Mass” scheduled to take place in September.

“I am relieved that we have been able to secure the return of the sacred Host, and that we have prevented its desecration as part of a planned satanic ritual,” Coakley said in a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Coakley sued the Satanic group, the Church of Ahriman, on the grounds that it stole the communion wafer, which Catholics hold to be a sacred part of the Mass ritual.

“I remain concerned about the dark powers that this satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly,” Coakley said in a statement.

Adam Daniel, the Satan worshipper set to lead next month’s Black Mass, said fighting the lawsuit wasn’t worth the trouble.

“I don’t feel like wasting thousands of dollars over a nasty cookie,” he said.

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