An autopsy expert said the lungs of at least two Oklahoma death row inmates filled with fluid before they were executed by the state.
That's according to testimony delivered by the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Mark Edgar in day two of a federal trial over the state's execution protocol.
The expert testifying on behalf of the death row inmates said Tuesday, 85% of execution autopsies he’s reviewed show fluid filled lungs, a sensation he said is terrifying.
Edgar said Oklahoma Death Row Inmates John Grant and Bigler Stouffer suffered from pulmonary edema during their executions.
He had not yet received autopsy reports for Donald Grant or Gilbert Postelle.
Edgar described bubbles in images shown to the court of one of Grants’ lungs.
The only way for the froth to occur, according to the doctor, is “while the prisoner is alive and breathing.”
He said pulmonary edema, a medical emergency often associated with drug overdoses, can cause a sense of “doom, panic, drowning and asphyxiation”
The cause is, the doctor said, Midazolam. The first drug in Oklahoma’s three drug cocktail. However, he was uncertain exactly why the drug caused the fluid.
The Oklahoma solicitor general arguing on behalf of the state pushed back noting the frothy lungs also showed up in other execution methods across the county.
While the state told the judge they don’t deny the pulmonary edema, attorneys did question whether the prisoner would experience pain given the amount of sedation administered at the beginning of the execution process.
U.S. District Judge Steven Friot was attentive, asking Edgar a dozen questions Tuesday.
The court also heard from ER doctor and firearms expert, Dr. James Williams who called the firing squad “feasible, practical and effective,” as an alternative execution method.
More than 18 death row inmates included the firing squad as a preferred alternative execution method.
Williams, who said he’s been shot himself, said a numb tingling sensation follows a gunshot wound. He said a person shot in the heart would be unconscious 1 to 2 seconds after being hit.
Attorneys for the death row inmates said they plan to call one additional witness Wednesday before the state begins calling expert witness of their own.