Botched Oklahoma Execution: Killing in the Name of the State

It least 4.1% of death row inmates are innocent of the crime for which they are sentenced to die. That fact alone should be enough to stop capital punishment for good. Couple that with the reality that states without the death penalty consistently have lower murder rates, and you’ve got a solid argument against. Add the evidence that retribution does nothing to help the grief and loss of victim’s families–in fact it involves them in a 10-12 year legal battle during which they will be constantly reliving the past–one would think capital punishment would be quickly phased out. Yet the death penalty is alive and well (… although maybe not “well”). Perhaps yesterday’s botched execution in Oklahoma will help to finally end killing in the name of the state, but I doubt it.

From The Guardian:

“The Guardian watched as Lockett was asked if he had final words. He said “no.” He lay covered in a white sheet when the execution began at 6.23pm. At 6.30pm he was found to be still conscious. Lockett was then pronounced unconscious at 6.33pm but his violent struggle began three minutes later. He tried to speak and was heard to say “man” at 6.39pm. An official in the execution room then lowered the blinds so viewers could no longer witness the process.

Robert Patton, the director of Oklahoma’s department of corrections, said later that when doctors felt that the drugs were not having the required effect on Lockett, they discovered that a vein had ruptured. “After conferring with the warden, and unknown how much drugs went into him, it was my decision at that time to stop the execution,” Patton told reporters.

Massie said that all three drugs in the cocktail used by the state were administered, but that a vein “blew” during the execution process and Lockett later suffered a heart attack. He was pronounced dead at 7.06pm, 43 minutes after the process began.”

What makes the case even more insidious and horrific is that the Oklahoma courts ordered the execution stayed over concerns about the effectiveness of the drugs. Political machinations forced them to back down.

“The double executions were scheduled after an unprecedented legal and political dispute in Oklahoma. The inmates challenged the secrecy surrounding Oklahoma’s source of lethal injection drugs, winning at the state district court level, but two higher courts argued over which could grant a stay of execution. When the state supreme court stayed their executions so that it could consider their constitutional claim, the Republican governor, Mary Fallin, declared in a controversial statement that it had no authority to grant the stay. A member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives said he would try to have the justices who wanted the stay impeached. Amid accusations of undue political pressure, the court then ruled against the prisoners and lifted the stay.”

Madeline Cohen, who was an attorney for the man condemned to die immediately after Lockett’s botched execution said, “After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight’s lethal injection procedures, tonight Clayton Lockett was tortured to death.” I think she’s right.

Lock them up and throw away the key. Make them chop big rocks into small rocks with a claw hammer. But don’t kill them, especially not inhumanely. We have to be better than this as a society.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • JT

    My first reaction to this was look how much the person he was accused of killing endured. Then I caught myself–should I really think like that–no I shouldn’t. Thanks for giving someone who might be more for the death penalty food for thought.

  • bill wald

    Boggles my mind that a state government can’t quickly put down a human. When a vet put down Benny The Dog she put the needle in and I said, “you will be OK” and she immediately said, “He’s already dead.” Ruined my Christmas Eves forever.Other side of the scale, remember when a vet put down a champion race horse with a few hundred million people watching? No one complained about it be inhumane.

  • scott stone

    The death penalty repulses me. I can’t believe we still tolerate state sanctioned murder. Have we not evolved enough here in the States to have a higher degree of civility and morality?

  • breid1903

    christains

    peaceup raz

  • SmilingAtheist

    A violent crimminal breaks into a house, and rapes and kills a young mother. We should not be worrying that he ‘suffered’ a little before he died….. We should be happy that this worthless piece of human excrement is now dead…. Our only concern is, that he didn’t suffer enough, for the crimes he committed.

  • Paul Guthrie

    Some of our states evolved quite some time ago. My home state of Michigan was the first English speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty. Indeed since entry to the Union in 1837, the people and laws of our state have never executed anyone.


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