Views You Can Use: Botched Oklahoma Execution Raises Death Penalty Questions

An inmate was administered a combination of drugs never before given to a human.

The Associated Press

Clayton Lockett was executed in Oklahoma on Tuesday.

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The state of Oklahoma botched an execution Tuesday night, leaving an inmate writhing in pain before dying 43 minutes later of a heart attack. The state then postponed a second execution that was set to take place.

Clayton Lockett was administered a cocktail of drugs in dosages never before used in an execution in the United States, because a new drug for lethal injection had to be found when European drug manufacturers who oppose capital punishment stopped shipping to the U.S. Lockett, who was convicted of shooting and burying alive a 19-year-old woman and raping another woman, cried out loud several times after the first drug was administered. Oklahoma’s department of corrections director said that one of Lockett’s veins ruptured and allowed the drugs to flow into his body. The cocktail used for the execution was previously subject to a legal challenge when Lockett and the other inmate set to be executed protested the secrecy surrounding its contents.

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Will Bunch of Attytood called Lockett’s execution “torture” and said using the untested combination of drugs as ordered by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was “immoral and unconscionable.” He stressed that Lockett's crimes were heinous, “but at the end of it all, there's a reason why we like to call ourselves a civilization. Society is supposed to be better than the individuals that we must punish, and so the answer to violence is never pre-meditated state-sponsored violence.”

Bob Cesca of The Daily Banter wrote that he still finds ambivalent about the death penalty after the incident. “On one hand, I can’t help but to be satisfied that Lockett is gone. Admittedly, this is nothing more than gut instinct and a very emotional, primal, human sense of cold, hard justice,” Cesca wrote. “On the other hand, and objectively speaking, the death penalty has proved to be an ineffective deterrent, and in terms of recidivism, locking up murderers like Lockett for the rest of his life without parole takes care of that.”

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Andrew Cohen writing for the Atlantic said that even people who support capital punishment should be appalled at the conditions under which Lockett was executed. “One can support the death penalty in general, and in the case of Clayton Lockett, and still be morally repulsed by the idea of torturing a man to death under color of law in circumstances in which the torturers knew or should have known their conduct would violate the Constitution,” Cohen wrote. “An eye-for-an-eye does not raise anyone up; it just brings us down to the level of the condemned.”

The national death-penalty system “is in crisis,” wrote Dustin Volz for National Journal. “The scramble to procure lethal cocktails has resulted in an alarming inconsistency in the way inmates are executed in the United States,” he wrote. “The refusal of some states to disclose the process for selecting new drug bolsters critics who claim it and other states are willing to risk violating generally accepted standards of decency in their pursuit of a reliable method of execution.”