Clayton Lockett Botched Execution: Denver's David Lane Files Suit Over "Disgrace to USA"

A booking photo of Clayton Lockett. Additional images, a video and more below.
A booking photo of Clayton Lockett. Additional images, a video and more below.

Attorney David Lane has long been among the most prominent opponents of capital punishment in Colorado. You'll recall that he represented Edward Montour, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole earlier this year after questions about the death that led to his initial imprisonment prompted prosecutors to drop a long-running death-penalty bid over a prison murder.

Now, Lane is taking on a case with a huge national profile: a lawsuit against assorted Oklahoma officials and co-defendants (including a doctor who previously had not been publicly identified) over the botched execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett earlier this year. Here's more about the complaint, including Lane's comments and the complete document.

See also: Edward Montour Death Penalty Bid Dropped in Favor of Life Without Possibility of Parole

A family photo of Stephanie Neiman, who was murdered by Clayton Lockett.
A family photo of Stephanie Neiman, who was murdered by Clayton Lockett.

The ClarkProsecutor.org account of the 1999 crime for which Lockett was sentenced to die is absolutely horrific. Here's a summary:

At around 10:30 p.m. Bobby Bornt was asleep on the couch at his house in Perry, Oklahoma, when his front door was kicked in. Clayton Lockett, Shawn Mathis and Alfonzo Lockett entered his house and immediately started beating and kicking him. Lockett was carrying a shotgun which he used to hit Bornt. After the beating, duct tape was used to secure his hands behind his back and they gagged him and left him on the couch while they ransacked the house looking for drugs. As Bornt lay restrained, his friend, Summer Hair, approached the open door. She was pulled inside, hit in the face and thrown against a wall. One of the men put a gun to her head and ordered her to call to her friend, Stephanie Neiman, who was outside sitting in her pickup. When Neiman came inside, they hit her several times to get the keys to her pickup. They were bound with duct tape and put in the bedroom where Bornt's nine-month old son, Sam, had been sleeping. Hair was forcibly raped and sodomized by all three men. They were then loaded into the pickup trucks of Bornt and Nieman and driven to a remote rural location. Hair was again raped in a ditch by Clayton Lockett and Mathis, who told her "In order for you to live, this is what you have got to do." Clayton Lockett instructed Mathis to dig a grave and said :"Someone has got to go." Neiman was taken to the hole dug by Mathis. When she refused to promise that she would not go to the police, Clayton Lockett shot her. The gun jammed, but he fixed it, returned and shot her again. While Mathis buried Neiman, Bornt and Hair were warned that if they told anyone they would be killed too. They then drove both pickups and dropped off Bornt, his son and Hair at Bornt's house and they left in Bornt's pickup. The following day, Bornt and Hair told the Perry police what had happened. Neiman's pickup and her body were recovered and all three men were subsequently arrested. Clayton Lockett ultimately confessed to police.

An image of the table on which Clayton Lockett died, as seen in a CNN report on view below.
An image of the table on which Clayton Lockett died, as seen in a CNN report on view below.

The description of Lockett's April 29 execution contained in the suit filed by Lane is plenty disturbing as well. Lockett was injected with a lethal blend of chemicals that included midazolam, a drug that hadn't been used previously in an Oklahoma execution -- and the situation soon began spiraling out of control. Here's a description of what happened:

About 13 minutes after the attempt began, Clayton Lockett began to speak and roll his head from side to side. Soon, Clayton Lockett's body began to buck and writhe, as if he was trying to raise himself from the gurney to which the Defendants had bound him. Clayton Lockett next tried to raise his head and shoulders away from this gurney. As he did so, he clenched his teeth and grimaced in pain. After enduring 43 minutes of agony, Clayton Lockett was declared dead.

This "killing by torture," as Lane puts it, renewed the national debate on the death penalty -- and after Lockett's brother Gary reached out, the attorney eagerly agreed to handle the lawsuit over the execution, which he calls "beyond shocking. It's something you would expect out of a Third World authoritarian dictatorship." Continue for more about the lawsuit filed over Clayton Lockett's execution, including additional photos, a video and the complete document.  

Another image from the room where Clayton Lockett died, from CNN coverage.
Another image from the room where Clayton Lockett died, from CNN coverage.

Among the defendants in the lawsuit are Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, as well as Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton and Oklahoma State Penitentiary warden Anita Trammell. The suit also names Dr. Johnny Zellmer, whose participation had previously been secret.

"This is an interesting little twist," Lane says. "There's a law in Oklahoma that says the name of any doctor who participates in an execution shall remain confidential, because Oklahoma wants to hide from the truth. The same goes for the compounding pharmacies. But I was able to find out the name of the doctor, and I went ahead and outted him.

David Lane during a 2013 television appearance.
David Lane during a 2013 television appearance.

"He took the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, but if you pay him enough money, he'll kill people for the State of Oklahoma," Lane continues about Zellmer. "And he'll do it with experimental drugs that have never been used before. That's human experimentation on an unwilling patient, which is what we hung doctors for after the Nuremberg Trial.

"He had no knowledge of what these drugs would do. This drug cocktail was put together by Patton and Trammell, neither of whom have any medical background whatsoever. While Clayton Lockett was thrashing around dying, the warden asked, 'Do we have any more drugs we can get him?' And they had a whole other set. But they were going to kill Charles Warner" -- another inmate sentenced to death -- "that evening, and they didn't want to waste them on Clayton Lockett. So they just let him suffer."

The result, in Lane's view, was "a barbaric, uncivilized spectacle that lowers us as a people. It's a disgrace to the United States of America."

A common complaint among those who support the death penalty involves the suggestion that a killer's offenses get lost amid capital punishment criticisms. But Lane rejects such an argument.

"Clayton Lockett paid for his crimes with his life," he says. "Now, the State of Oklahoma needs to pay for its crimes against humanity."

Look below to see a CNN report featuring an interview with a witness to Lockett's execution, followed by the most recent Lockett mug shot and the lawsuit.

Clayton Lockett.
Clayton Lockett.

Clayton Lockett Complaint

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.


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