Thursday, May 1, 2014

Oklahoma and the Unusually Cruel Execution

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Oklahoma gave an inmate an untried chemical cocktail in an attempt to perform an execution. The only problem was the prisoner didn't die right away, and instead suffered a horrible death that was witnessed by reporters. Thanks to the secrecy of the state of Oklahoma, we'll probably never know exactly what went wrong, but at least they stayed execution for the next prisoner in line. As if OK wasn't backward enough, now they have this new blot on their record. One more good reason to get rid of Governor Mary Fallin.

Live Tweets of horror by reporter Bailey McBride:

Her feelings the next day, April 29, 2014:

From The New Yorker
Oklahoma’s secrecy laws make it impossible to know anything beyond the names of the ingredients injected into the condemned prisoner. The state has declined to provide the public with reasons for selecting a particular drug cocktail, or with any details about the drugs themselves, or about the supplier. The state reportedly buys the drugs with petty cash, to make the purchases more difficult to track and, therefore, harder to legally challenge.

What is known, though, is that, ten minutes into Lockett’s execution, a prison official told a doctor, “Go ahead and check to see if he’s unconscious.”
After checking, the doctor said, “Mr. Lockett is not unconscious.”
“I’m not,” Lockett said.

Courtney Francisco, a reporter for KFOR-TV, in Oklahoma City, was one of the witnesses at the execution. She told the BBC that Lockett, strapped to the gurney, was moving his arms and legs and mumbling, “as if he was trying to talk.”

We have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely. I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.
~ White House Spokesperson Jay Carney

You’d think that a modern society endlessly searching for a “humane” way to kill people, and finding that all of its methods turn out to be some form of torture, would do one of two things: realize there’s no humane way to kill people, and stop it, or accept that the point is cruelty, and just torture the hell out of them. Mary Fallin and her Oklahoma allies appear to have decided the latter. They should be honest about it.
~ Joan Walsh on Salon

The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma this week is yet more evidence that the death sentence is barbaric and has no place in a civilized society.
The fact that, as reported, Lockett was left "writhing in agony" on the gurney of the death chamber of Oklahoma state penitentiary after a cocktail of lethal drugs had been administered, and that it took 43 minutes for him to die of a heart attack, should be reason to call a moratorium on the death sentence in the US, else it can no longer claim to be that symbol of freedom and justice it claims.
~ John Wight, Huffington Post

The death penalty may be on its death bed.
The botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate Tuesday night has temporarily halted planned executions in that state, but the horrifying death of Clayton Locket is only the most recent in a series of executions to illustrate that lethal injection is not a humane alternative to options like the electric chair or firing squad. With crime rates dropping across the U.S., states abolishing capital punishment, and drug companies abandoning the execution market – forcing the creation of secret and unproven drug combinations – the fight to end the death penalty may have reached a tipping point.
~ Meredith Clark, MSNBC

From KFOR News in Oklahoma City
ACLU of Oklahoma Says Governor’s Proposed Investigation is Not Independent

UPDATE 7:38 p.m. - Shortly after the execution of Clay Lockett, the American Civil Union of Oklahoma called for a moratorium on all executions in Oklahoma pending a complete and independent investigation into the botched execution and the events leading up to the fundamental breakdown in the state’s execution process.

The ACLU of Oklahoma issued a statement in response to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin call for an investigation to be conducted by a state agency under her control.

The Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma Ryan Kiesel said, “It is impossible for the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s office, or anyone who is under the control of any agency or politician who played a role in this matter to offer a truly independent assessment. It is absurd to think that the same group of people that unnecessarily rushed last night’s execution and fought openness at every turn, can now be expected to hold themselves accountable in an investigation. This began as a question of whether we trust the government to kill its citizens, even guilty ones, in a secret process. Now we add to that the question of whether we trust the government to investigate itself and hold itself accountable when something goes horribly wrong during its secret execution process.”

Excellent reporting by Rachel Maddow on this horrible topic:

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