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Missing organs complicate

second autopsy



Chronicle News Services

The body of convicted murder Clayton Derrell Lockett has been returned to Oklahoma, however a second autopsy has only been partially completed due to the fact his body was sent back from Dallas County without all of its organs.

The state sent Lockett’s body to the Dallas County medical examiner’s office as part of an investigation into his botched execution. Through an April 30 executive order, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Michael Thompson, commissioner of the state Public Safety Department, to lead the investigation into what went wrong during Lockett’s execution.

Lawyers representing Lockett asked for a second independent autopsy. An expert who specializes in second autopsies, those done after the organs have already been surgically removed and studied, was brought in from out of state but was unable to perform a complete autopsy, said David Autry, Lockett’s defense attorney.

“They did what they could,” Autry said. “The heart and the larynx were not among the organs that were with the body when the second autopsy was done. They’re with the medical examiner’s office in Dallas.”

Autry said while it does strike him as unusual, it is likely they are doing further tests on the remaining body parts. He said it has delayed their efforts to learn more about what happened the night of April 13 when Lockett bucked and tensed during his execution.

“I hope they maintain the evidence as we have requested them to do, but the fact that the body arrived without the heart and the larynx is somewhat disconcerting, I guess,” Autry said. Autry said the second autopsy expert was brought in and left after performing the partial second autopsy. Results of the second autopsy were not released.

Lockett’s body has since been returned to his family, Autry said. He believes the body has been cremated. The bodies of executed inmates are typically released to family members. It is not uncommon for medical examiners to hold on to specific body parts for further analysis and testing, said state medical examiner’s office spokeswoman Amy Elliot.

She did not comment on why Dallas County decided to keep Lockett’s organs, but she said some autopsies take several months to complete when additional testing is required. Cathy Self, forensic operations administrator for the Dallas County medical examiner’s office, confirmed Lockett’s autopsy is incomplete, but said she could not comment further on any aspect of the process.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, declined by email to answer questions about the autopsy or why the Dallas County medical examiner’s office has not returned the organs.

“It wouldn’t be much of an ongoing investigation if details of any portion of it were discussed with anyone outside the investigative team,” Randolph wrote.

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