Independent autopsy of Clayton Lockett: Execution team failed to place IV properly in femoral vein

The preliminary results for an independent autopsy performed on Clayton Lockett , an Oklahoma inmate who died in April following a botched execution, were released Friday.

According to forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Cohen, the execution team failed to set a properly functioning IV in Lockett's femoral vein and the inmate's vein did not collapse as previously suggested.

LINK: Preliminary results of independent autopsy

Cohen was enlisted to perform the independent autopsy by Lockett's attorneys.

Lockett was scheduled to die April 29 by lethal injection.  After he began writhing and moaning on the gurney, the execution was halted and he died a short time later.

Initially, prison officials said Lockett died of a massive heart attack; however, Cohen writes in the autopsy report that he was unable to confirm a primary cardiac condition (i.e., a heart attack) played any role in Lockett's death.

Cohen reports Lockett's veins were in excellent shape for an IV; however, the execution team chose to use Lockett's femoral vein in the groin area , which Cohen says is riskier, more difficult and more painful to place.

According to Cohen’s report, he found “skin punctures on the extremities and right and left femoral areas,” demonstrating that the execution team attempted to place IVs in both arms and both sides of Lockett’s groin.

Cohen's report says the execution team’s multiple attempts to insert the IV into Lockett's groin perforated the femoral vein, but Lockett's vein did not collapse.

Rather, despite the excellent condition of Lockett’s veins, the execution team made numerous failed attempts to set an IV, eventually setting an improperly placed and ineffective IV in Lockett’s femoral vein.

Cohen also notes the “unlikelihood” that dehydration could have played a role in compromising venous access.

The report claims the initial autopsy would not have shown evidence of attempted vascular access and other injury because additional dissection was necessary to expose the new findings.

The cause, manner, mechanism and mode of death for Lockett remain under investigation.

The heart and a portion of Lockett's neck structures were unavailable for examination during the independent autopsy examination.  Cohen has requested the report of findings from the examination of the heart and neck from the original autopsy performed by the Dallas County medical examiner; following the review of those results, a complete final report will be released.

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, says the DOC has no comment until the completion of the state's independent review by the Department of Public Safety.

A spokesperson for DPS says the department hasn't reviewed Cohen's findings and has no comment. They won't have one until the completion of their review.

The Governor's office said the report reinforces some of what was already known, including the fact that there were problems administering the IV. The independent review made by the DPS is the one of the last pieces of the puzzle the Governor's office is waiting on.

More than 100 people have been interviewed by the DPS as part of an investigation into Lockett's execution.  It could be several weeks before their findings are released.

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