The Life of Clayton Lockett

Clayton Derrell Lockett was born on November 22, 1975. His mother used drugs during the pregnancy, and when Clayton was three years old, she placed him on his father’s doorstep and walked away. When his father found him, he was soaked in urine.

After his mother abandoned him, Clayton became uniquely attached to his father, coming to idolize the man. Yet Clayton’s father beat his son, regularly and severely, stripping him naked and striking him with belts and boards. He would also frequently threaten the child with guns.

Clayton first began using drugs at age three—at his father’s insistence. Clayton’s father was a criminal, and taught his son to steal, punishing the boy if he were caught. He watched pornographic movies in the child’s presence, and encouraged his son to become sexually active at a very early age, telling the boy that women are “no good,” and that they exist only to do what men want.

Several members of Clayton’s family believed his older brother had sexually abused him when he was little. Clayton sucked his thumb and wet the bed until he was 12. While still very young, he suffered a bad fall, with a concussion.

When Clayton was 16, he was incarcerated at a correctional center meant for adults. While there, he was raped by three men.

On June 3, 1999, Clayton was 23 years old, and already a convicted felon (for burglary). Around 10:30 that night, Clayton and two other men broke into the house of a Perry, Oklahoma resident named Bobby Bornt. Bobby had been asleep on the couch, while his nine-month-old son, Sam, lay sleeping in a back bedroom. Clayton struck Bobby with a shotgun; all three men then beat Bobby, tied his hands with duct tape, gagged him, and left him on the couch while they searched the house for drugs. Around that time, Bobby’s friend, Summer Hair, approached the front door. She was pulled inside, beaten, and told to call for her friend, Stephanie Neiman, who was outside waiting in her pickup truck. Summer did as the men said, and when Stephanie entered the house, she, too, was captured. Two of the men, including Clayton, then raped Summer.

The captors bound their victims, and Clayton instructed one of the two men to look in the garage and find a shovel. The victims, including Sam, were loaded into two pickups, one belonging to Bobby, the other to Stephanie. They drove to a country road in Kay County, Oklahoma. There, Clayton raped Summer again. The men dug a shallow hole, and decided to kill Stephanie. Clayton shot her, but the shot did not kill her right away. She was buried alive in the shallow hole. The men then returned to Bobby’s house, where they left Bobby, Sam, and Summer behind.

Police arrested Clayton the next day, and he confessed to the murder.

Trials in Oklahoma where the State seeks the death penalty are split in two: the first stage determines guilt, and the second, punishment. At the guilt stage, the State presented Clayton’s videotaped confession. He admitted he’d gone to Bobby’s house to rob him; admitted to beating him, and Summer, and Stephanie; admitted to binding them all with duct tape; admitted to kidnapping them; admitted to making the decision that Stephanie would die; admitted to shooting her, while she wept; and he admitted to insisting that she be buried while she was still living. He denied raping Summer, and claimed to have held, comforted, and fed Sam at the house (he also claimed to have changed the baby’s diaper at the murder site).

The jury found Clayton guilty, and in the second stage of the trial—the stage for determining whether Clayton would receive the death penalty—the State presented evidence that Clayton had sent jail-letters to friends suggesting that his gang, the Crips, kill Bobby and Summer ahead of his trial. He also claimed to be tracking his surviving victims’ movements—a claim corroborated by his knowledge of Bobby and Summer’s addresses and Social Security Numbers. Clayton had also written letters to jail personnel where he boasted about his IQ (190), martial arts prowess (two black belts), and advanced criminality (claiming he’d stabbed multiple corrections officers, started a prison riot, and would not be convicted, because his gang would not allow it).

On October 5, 2000, the jury sentenced Clayton to death.

On that date, Oklahoma law required that Clayton’s execution result from a continuous, intravenous administration of a lethal quantity of an ultrashort-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent.

On April 1, 2014, Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections sent notice to Clayton, through his lawyer, that his execution would instead result from a combination of midazolam, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride—a combination which had never been used before in Oklahoma (Oklahoma had never once used midazolam, a sedative, in any execution). Also, while midazolam had been used in executions in other states, it had only been used in a few, and in different dosages than the ones Oklahoma would use to execute Clayton. Oklahoma law also forbade the disclosure of the identities of anyone who supplied the State with drugs for lethal injections.

Clayton’s lawyers attacked that last portion of the law as an unconstitutional interference with Clayton’s right to know exactly how he would be killed.

On March 26, 2014, a trial judge agreed with Clayton’s lawyers, and the matter went up on appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which reviews civil cases, and holds no express legal authority to stay an execution, even if the manner of that execution is under attack in the civil courts. The Supreme Court transferred Clayton’s request for a stay of execution to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals—which does possess legal authority to stay executions—and retained for review the civil-law questions Clayton had raised.

On April 18, the Court of Criminal Appeals refused to consider the stay, claiming a lack of jurisdiction (over the dissent of two of its five members).

On April 21, the Supreme Court, with admitted hesitation, stayed Clayton’s execution while it finished the review of his civil-law claims.

On April 22, Oklahoma’s Governor entered her own stay of Clayton’s execution, but merely to intercept and override the stay ordered by the Supreme Court. She directed that Clayton die, seven days later, on April 29, at 6 pm.

On April 23, the Supreme Court dissolved its stay, and rendered a ruling on Clayton’s civil-law claims (it denied them).

Clayton wanted his last meal to be “chateaubriand steak,” but this exceeded the $15 budget allocated for last meals by the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. (Clayton was offered an alternative choice, a steak from the local Western Sizzlin’, but refused it.)

Clayton offered no last words, and his execution began late, at 6:23 pm.

Five minutes later, a doctor injected fifty milligrams of midazolam into each of Clayton’s arms—this was intended to sedate him, prior to administration of the fatal drugs. After all the drugs had entered his body, Clayton closed his eyes and opened his mouth, slightly.

At 6:31, the doctor checked his pupils and placed a hand on his chest. He shook him. “Mr. Lockett is not unconscious,” the warden said. At 6:33, the doctor checked him again; this time the warden said Clayton was unconscious. Three minutes later, Clayton kicked his right leg and rolled his head to the side. He mumbled, writhed, and bucked. He grimaced and grunted, lifting his shoulders off the gurney and rolling his head from side to side, still mumbling.

At 6:39, the doctor checked Clayton’s right arm: afterward, the blinds over the glass window between the execution chamber and the viewing room were lowered.

At 6:50, DOC officials stopped Clayton’s execution. Clayton’s vein, into which the fatal drugs had been injected, had exploded. He was pronounced dead of a heart attack at 7:06 pm.

(The facts presented above were obtained from several sources, primarily the opinion of the Federal Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Lockett v. Trammel, the opinion of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Lockett v. State, the pleadings related to Clayton Lockett’s 2014 civil actions in Oklahoma state court, the opinions of the Oklahoma appellate courts regarding those actions, and, of particular note, an eyewitness account of Clayton’s execution, published by Ziva Branstetter in the Tulsa World.)



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