DOC Director's Past Raising Questions Over Oklahoma Executions

Friday, November 13th 2015, 7:03 pm
By: Grant Hermes

Newly obtained court documents from a 2011 federal lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections, show a string of departures from execution rules and a lack of record keeping by Robert Patton in 2011. Patton was in charge of Arizona's executions before accepting a job as director of Oklahoma's Department of Corrections. The lawsuit was on behalf of five executed Arizona inmates.

Inside the deposition, Patton admitted he personally did not keep track of the individual medical team members' training or credentials and allowed a medic who was not qualified to be a part of five executions.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesperson Terri Watkins said Thursday, Patton was not involved in the hiring process of that medic and the defense attorney said the medic was not qualified. Patton does not correct or disagree with the defense attorney in the documents.

Patton also admitted he never personally inspected the lethal injection chemicals to ensure they were correct or used properly. He said he only kept informal records in a spiral notebook and often relied on verbal staff reports to determine if procedures were followed.

Officially, Patton held the position of Division Director of Offender Operations and noted in a deposition he was in charge of all “pre-execution, pre-execution, execution, and post-execution activities.”

Ultimately, a judge from the U.S. District Court of Arizona didn’t deny deviations from protocols were made but ruled the state's protocols didn't have to be "inflexible" and that "some deviation... may be necessary."

Watkins said the allegations against Patton had been public since 2011, she said similar stories from other outlets had inaccuracies.

"When I was informed that this was a different name of drug, the protocol worked. I said 'stop.' that's what the protocol is supposed to do." Patton said on Oct. 2 of this year at a press conference following the halted execution of Richard Glossip.

Patton said he halted the execution after it was brought to his attention potassium acetate, not potassium chloride was nearly used in the execution. The Oklahoma attorney general's office is investigating that drug mix-up, as well as Charles Warner's execution, in which potassium acetate was used and the flawed execution of Clayton Lockett, where it took 45 minutes for Lockett to be pronounced dead.

Patton was hired several years after the 2011 law suit. Following his departure, Joseph Wood was put to death in Arizona. That execution took two hours after the state had to use 15 doses of a new experimental lethal injection cocktail. One of the people involved in that incident was hired just weeks prior as a special assistant to Patton.