Oklahoma Man Who Developed Lethal Injection Recipe Lived With Regret
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma and the other states that use lethal injection to execute prisoners are scrambling to find new ingredients to do the job because the originals are no longer being made, or sold.
That original three-drug mixture was developed in Oklahoma, a recipe compiled by an anguished member of the House of Representatives.
Bill Wiseman was a Republican house member from south Tulsa, elected in 1974, who loved the game of politics. He hoped to be governor someday. But then on a critical vote, his conscience failed him, and his life became wracked with regret.
Did he help kill more than a thousand people? That's what always kept Bill Wiseman up at night. He talked with News On 6 Reporter Scott Thompson about his decision in 2005.
Wiseman was a rising star. He loved politics; it gave him an identity, a mission.
He dreamed of a congressional seat and of the Governor's mansion. He would do anything to stay in the game.
"The motivation to get re-elected, to be popular, to have everybody like you, everybody. Lots of times, for me at least, worked at cross-purposes with what that still small voice would say on issues like capital punishment and other things," Wiseman said in 2005.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down capital punishment. But the states were given leeway to bring it back, in a less arbitrary form.
Wiseman, schooled by Pennsylvania Quakers since his earliest days, was sure killing people was wrong.
"I knew that capital punishment, it doesn't work, it doesn't make sense, I couldn't see any way to justify it. I also knew that if I voted against it, from my district, I would run a high chance of getting whooped. And I was having the best time and I didn't want to get whooped. So I was in a real dilemma," Wiseman said.
When asked what he did, Wiseman said, "The wrong thing. As Yogi said, 'I made the wrong mistake.'"
When the vote came to the floor, Wiseman joined all but five members of the House and pushed the "Yes" button on his desk.
"It made me kind of sick and pretty disgusted with myself," he said.
Looking for a way to temper what he had done, Wiseman sat in his office, alongside the State Medical Examiner, and drafted a paragraph to help ease his guilt.
"It said an intravenous saline drip shall be established into which will be introduced an ultra-short acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic," Wiseman recalled.
In 1977, Oklahoma became the first government in the world to adopt death by lethal injection, and Wiseman, who so hates the idea of taking human life, gained his footnote in history.
"I don't hear the word lethal injection or execution or anything else without feeling a tug because it's tied to me, I'll always be tied to it," he said.
When asked what the man who came up with the recipe for lethal injection does he do on judgment day, Wiseman said, "The same thing everyone else does, throw ourselves on the mercy of God and say that we've done wrong and we're sorry."
In 2007, two years after we spoke, Bill Wiseman and four others were killed when the small plane Wiseman was piloting crashed in a Glenpool field.