Clayton Lockett was a very bad man. He beat 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman, shot her twice, and then buried her alive. If ever a man deserved the death penalty, it was Lockett.
But something truly horrible happened at his execution in Oklahoma this week. An untested drug combination, from an unidentified source, did not work. It may have been the drugs or it may have the failure to administer them properly (a vein burst during the injection and not all the drug went to the right place). The details are vivid, disturbing, and available elsewhere. Suffice it to say that 10 minutes after the injection began, Lockett was still alive, speaking, and trying to get up. The execution was stopped, and Lockett finally died of a heart attack 45 minutes after the execution began.
The world has taken note of this American travesty/tragedy. We have been, for a while, the only first world country that still imposes the death penalty. How barbaric we must look now. Lethal injection was supposed to be so “civilized.”
This may well be the end of the death penalty, at least by lethal injection. Botched injections have happened before, and it’s hard to imagine any state now wants to risk being next. Especially when more and more pharmaceutical companies are refusing to provide the drugs. They all fear a catastrophic loss of legitimate business if word gets out they are supplying drugs for executions. That leaves states to get drugs from less desirable sources or have them compounded by companies that are not as closely regulated. And in Oklahoma they were using an untested drug cocktail (kind of hard to test how something kills humans without using it on a human).
I’ve not been opposed to the death penalty up till now. I still think some crimes warrant it, and Lockett’s was one of those. But no one deserves to die as Lockett did. And no state should be guilty of doing that to a human being.
I’ve never understood why we can put our beloved pets to sleep so peacefully, quickly, and painlessly with a single injection, but use some complicated, difficult-to-administer drug cocktail for condemned prisoners. Why can’t we use the same drug for human executions? If not that, why not lethal doses of morphine or heroin, or the anesthesia used in hospitals?
We condemn criminals to death, not to torture. It’s the death penalty, not the torture penalty. If we can’t deliver as promised, we should change the law.