Inmate Executed, Another Denied Appeal in Child Murder Cases

Last night, Oklahoma put to death its first inmate since the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014. Charles Warner, who filed a death penalty lawsuit against the state along with Lockett, was scheduled to die the same day as his co-plaintiff, but his execution date was postponed after Lockett's execution went wrong. You may remember that a malfunction in an IV line led to improper administration of the lethal injection cocktail. The state called a halt to the execution, and Lockett died of a heart attack approximately 43 minutes after being injected with death penalty drugs. Lockett's execution was the first in the state to use midazolam, the same drug that was used in the execution of Dennis McGuire, who took 15 minutes to die in Ohio. It was also used in the execution of Arizona death row inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was injected with the states lethal injection cocktail 15 times and took 2 hours to die. Charles Warner and other death row inmates have protested the use of midazolam, saying the drug presented a risk of pain and suffering in violation of the Constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The United States Supreme Court refused to consider the case of whether a sedative would be sufficient to prevent an inmate from feeling pain when the other drugs used in the cocktail stopped his or her heart and lungs. Warner was executed last night, with reports saying that it took 18 minutes for him to die. He was declared dead at 7:28 p.m. on January 15, 2015. Warner received the death penalty for the rape and murder of an 11-month old girl. The girl's mother, alternately described in media reports as Warner's girlfriend (which she denies) or roommate, left her daughter in Warner's care. When she returned home, the baby was unresponsive. At the hospital, doctors discovered signs of horrific trauma, including brain injuries, broken ribs, and anal tearing. Warner was convicted of the 1997 murder in 1999. He was granted a new trial, but subsequently convicted again in 2003. In another child abuse murder case, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday rejected the appeal of Freddy Mendez and upheld his conviction and life sentence. Mendez, 27, was convicted of the 2011 murder of 3-year-old Alexis Hawkins. The little girl died after being thrown to the ground, punched, and kicked. The girl's mother, Victoria Phanhtharath, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for enabling child abuse, but her sentence was modified after a judge heard her testimony against Mendez.

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