You’ve surely heard of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on Tuesday, in which that inmate’s vein “exploded” after he was given the first drug, the sedative midazolam. After the inmate is rendered unconscious, two more drugs are supposed to be injected in succession: vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the breathing muscles, and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart. It’s not clear how far they got into the execution procedure, and whether the second drug was actually injected, for Oklahoma officials aren’t talking.
Lockett, whose lawyers had sued Oklahoma for details about the drug’s origins (they’re provided by small “compounding pharmacies” that aren’t regulated very strictly), died of a heart attack shortly thereafter. Another execution scheduled the same day has been put off for at least two weeks.
CNN reports the gruesome scene:
Lockett lived for 43 minutes after being administered the first drug, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. He got out the words “Man,” “I’m not,” and “something’s wrong,” reporter Courtney Francisco of KFOR said. Then the blinds were closed.
Other reporters, including Cary Aspinwall of the Tulsa World newspaper, also said Lockett was still alive and lifted his head while prison officials lowered the blinds so onlookers couldn’t see what was going on.
Dean Sanderford, Lockett’s attorney, said his client’s body “started to twitch,” and then “the convulsing got worse. It looked like his whole upper body was trying to lift off the gurney. For a minute, there was chaos.”
Sanderford said guards ordered him out of the witness area, and he was never told what had happened to Lockett, who was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery.
After administering the first drug, “We began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol,” said Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton. “There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect. So the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown.” He said that Lockett’s vein had “exploded.”
The execution process was halted, but Lockett died of a heart attack, Patton said.
If that’s not “cruel and unusual punishment,” I don’t know what is. Because regular and foreign pharmacies refuse to furnish the drugs for this form of retributive punishment, there’s not much quality control. And I can’t understand why, if they must execute inmates, they can’t do it in the relatively painless way that vets euthanize animals: with pentobarbital or other derivatives that first put the animal to sleep and then cause death. I’ve had this done to a cat, and several of you have gone through this traumatic procedure, but at least we know that it’s quick and there’s no sign of the animal suffering.
Nevertheless, like innocent people sentenced to death, botched executions aren’t uncommon; the Death Penalty Information Center described 44 botched executions since 1977, when U.S. states began executing people after a decade’s respite. Warning; the descriptions are graphic and horrific, but if you are in favor of the death penalty, even by lethal injection, read about how many things have gone wrong, some of them undoubtedly due to the incompetence of the executioners.
But we shouldn’t kill people at all, if for no other reason than subsequent evidence could show the inmate was actually innocent. that has happened, you know, and more than once. And once you’re dead, there’s no bringing you back. But it’s still cruel and unusual punishment, for it forces someone to know the exact time and method of death, which to me seems horrible. And it’s more expensive than the logical alternative: life without parole, which is still a deterrent and keeps the criminal out of society.
America is the only First World country to retain judicial executions, and it’s barbaric and embarrassing. Here, from Time magazine, is the list of people we (and by “we”, I mean our country) have killed. The hiatus from 1967-1977 was ended when the Supreme Court ruled that executions were constitutional. You can go to the website and, by using your mouse over the chart, see what happened in any given year: