In 1977, death row inmate Gary Mark Gilmore chose to be executed by a firing squad. Gilmore was strapped to a chair at the Utah State Prison, and five officers shot him.
The media circus that ensued prompted a group of lawmakers in nearby Oklahoma to wonder if there might be a better way to handle executions. They approached Dr. Jay Chapman, the state medical examiner at the time, who proposed using three drugs, based loosely on anesthesia procedures at the time: one drug to knock out the inmates, one to relax or paralyze them, and a final drug that would stop their hearts.
Although most of the country just became aware of issues with Oklahoma's capital punishment protocols last week after Clayton Lockett's bungled execution, his lawyers had been worried for months. That's because in January, two condemned men in different states but injected with the same new drug cocktail endured executions that went badly. Lockett's lawyer, Susanna Gattoni, was unable to keep him from suffering a similar fate last week.