Oklahoma’s first execution since it botched the lethal injection of a death row inmate 10 months ago saw convicted baby killer Charles Frederick Warner exclaim from the death chamber: “My body is on fire.”
In a disturbing sequence, the 47-year-old Warner made the claim after getting a dose of the sedative midazolam followed by involuntary twitching after the lethal injection was administered. He stopped breathing seven minutes later.
The Thursday night execution at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester came after an extensive look at the process that included $71,000 in upgrades and even went before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Warner’s own execution was originally scheduled for April 29, the same night that inmate Clayton Lockett convulsed, spurted blood and writhed on his gurney during an execution that lasted 43 minutes. Prison officials later called Lockett’s prolonged death a “bloody mess.”
Convicted in the 1997 rape and murder of an 11-month-old girl in Oklahoma City, Warner could not escape his fate. But he added to the controversy surrounding lethal injection before his death.
“Before I give my final statement, I’ll tell you they poked me five times. It hurt. It feels like acid,” Warner said before the execution began.
Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, who witnessed the execution, said there was no way to know if Warner suffered because the second drug, a paralytic, would have prevented him from moving.
“Because Oklahoma injected Mr. Warner with a paralytic tonight, acting as a chemical veil, we will never know whether he experienced the intense pain of suffocation and burning that would result from injecting a conscious person with rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride,” Cohen said in a statement.
Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement praising the professionalism of the prison staff.
“Justice was served tonight as the state executed Charles Warner for the heinous crime of raping and murdering an infant,” Fallin said.
It was the second time Oklahoma used midazolam as part of a three-drug method, which had been challenged by Warner and other death row inmates as presenting an unconstitutional risk of pain and suffering.
The execution came after a divided U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling said it wouldn’t consider whether a sedative given to the inmate would be strong enough to render him so unconscious that he wouldn’t feel other drugs stop his lungs and heart.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she believes questions about the effectiveness of the drugs are particularly important because of states’ increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution.
“Petitioners have committed horrific crimes, and should be punished,” Sotomayor wrote. “But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death.”
Warner was one of two men executed in the U.S. Thursday. Both men were killed by lethal injection, and they were pronounced within minutes of each other.
Johnny Shane Kormondy, 42, was executed in Florida for a 1993 home invasion in which he murdered a Pensacola banker and raped the man’s wife.
Kormondy was convicted of murdering Gary McAdams and repeatedly raping Gary’s wife, Cecilia. Kormondy and two other men confronted the couple outside their Pensacola home right after they returned from a high school reunion. The thugs forced their way into the house and Kormondy raped Cecilia several times before fatally shooting Gary in the back of his head.
The accomplices in the assault were sentenced to life in prison.
Kormondy was pronounced dead at Florida State Prison at 7:16 p.m, shortly after receiving an injection. His final words were: “I pray to Jesus Christ, son of God. I’m coming home.”
With News Wire Services