“This could be a real turning point in the whole debate as people get disgusted by this sort of thing,” said one death-penalty opponent afterward. Could it? See for yourself what this degenerate did to earn himself a spot on the gurney and decide how disgusted you are. He raped the victim, shot her, and then had his cohorts bury her alive while she was bleeding out — and of the two men Oklahoma was set to execute last night, he’s arguably the lesser offender of the two. The other guy raped and killed … an infant. His execution’s now been stayed while Oklahoma figures out what went wrong with the drug cocktail they administered to the first inmate.
If you weren’t on social media while this was first being reported, you missed a tour de force of bien-pensant moral lecturing from some death-penalty opponents, replete with infographics comparing Iran’s hanging of political prisoners and gays with the U.S.’s increasingly rare lethal injections of monsters like Lockett.
After the failure of a 20-minute attempt to execute him, Clayton Lockett was left to die of a heart attack in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma state penitentiary in McAlester. A lawyer said Lockett had effectively been “tortured to death”.
For three minutes after the first drugs were delivered Lockett struggled violently, groaned and writhed, lifting his shoulders and head from the gurney.
Some 16 minutes after the execution began, and without Lockett being declared dead, the blinds separating the chamber from the viewing room were closed. The process was called off shortly afterwards. Lockett died 43 minutes after the first executions drugs were adminsitered.
Why’d they botch it so badly? Lockett and Warner, the other inmate who was set to die last night, sued the state beforehand claiming that the new drug cocktail that Oklahoma was planning to use was untested. The reason the state was using a new drug cocktail in the first place is because some drug manufacturers, especially ones based in Europe, have lately refused to sell traditional lethal-injection ingredients to U.S. prisons. Pentobarbital, the most commonly used drug in executions, has been banned for sale for that purpose by its Dutch maker; Propofol, another effective drug that’s widely used in anesthesia, was similarly restricted by the EU for execution purposes. Essentially, opponents are trying to force a change in U.S. policy on capital punishment by choking off the supply of what’s needed to conduct the most humane method. Oklahoma, rather than give in to that, decided to go ahead with a new drug mix whose application may well have been negligent. Result: It took Lockett 43 minutes to die when, previously, it took an average of just six minutes for other Oklahoma death-row inmates.
Which brings us full circle to the quote at the beginning. This may, in fact, be a turning point insofar as the short supply of execution drugs combined with declining support for the death penalty among Americans might raise the political cost of executions to prohibitive levels. If U.S. drug manufacturers are unwilling or unable (under patent law) to supply prisons with more effective lethal drugs, then public debate will shift to deciding whether states should try a different method of execution altogether or, after decades of “evolving” from hanging to the electric chair to the gas chamber to lethal injection, they should just give up on capital punishment once and for all. (Sorry, Sonny, but the guillotine’s not coming back.) I doubt they’ll ever get rid of it altogether — too many people will read today about what Lockett did to his victim and conclude that he got a much better end than she did, botched or not — but this is a fertile moment opinion-wise for capital punishment opponents to try to scale the practice back.