Archbishop Coakley’s Statement on Oklahoma’s Botched Execution


This statement was issued by my religious leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley, regarding yesterday’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

Archbishop Coakley on execution of Clayton Lockett: “The brutality of the death penalty disregards human dignity”

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 30, 2014) – On April 29, in McAlester, Okla., the planned execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett utilizing a new three-drug lethal injection protocol failed, leaving Lockett evincing unexpected signs of pain and leading Oklahoma prison officials to halt the proceedings. Lockett later died of a heart attack.

Today, the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said the unprecedented execution underscores the brutality of the death penalty and urged Oklahomans to weigh carefully the demands of justice and mercy.

“How we treat criminals says a lot about us as a society,” the archbishop said. “We certainly need to administer justice with due consideration for the victims of crime, but we must find a way of doing so that does not contribute to the culture of death, which threatens to completely erode our sense of the innate dignity of the human person and of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”

“Once we recover our understanding that life is a gift from our Creator, wholly unearned and wholly unmerited by any of us, we will begin to recognize that there are and ought to be very strict limits to the legitimate use of the death penalty. It should never be used, for example, to exact vengeance, nor should it be allowed simply as a deterrent. In general, there are others ways to administer just punishment without resorting to lethal measures,” he continued.

“The execution of Clayton Lockett really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether,” he added.

“In the meantime, let us pray for peace for all those affected by or involved in last night’s execution in any way – including Lockett himself, his family, prison officials and others who witnessed the event. My compassion and prayers go out especially to the family of Stephanie Neiman, whom Lockett was convicted of killing.”

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  • Sus_1

    Wow! He said it much better than I did!

  • Manny

    “we must find a way of doing so that does not contribute to the culture of death, which threatens to completely erode our sense of the innate dignity of the human person and of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”
    On the contrary. Allowing Lockett to remain alive in jail after his heinous killings would be a complete affront to “innate dignity of the human person.” Society cannot let stand the callous, brutal slaughter of the poor, innocent human lives he took. It is not vengence. The laws of his execution were legitamately drawn by honestly elected legislatures. He faced due process through a legal trial, judged by his peers, and upheld by judicial review with years of deliberation. The duely governor reviewed the case and looked for possible errors and reason for mercy. He found none. Allowing injustice to linger in society would trivialize the sanctity of life. Justice was served.

    • Theodore Seeber

      I come to the opposite conclusion. Brutal as his death was, it doesn’t equate to the brutality he visited upon poor Stephanie at the end of her life. A quick death at the hands of an executioner does not equate to being shot three times and buried alive.

      Justice was not served, because no repentance and no recompense was given. I favor slavery over the death penalty for that very reason- because some crimes are so horrific that only a lifetime of hard labor in poverty, with the proceeds given to the victim’s family, can even begin to work penance with justice.

      • Manny

        I hear you. But the execution fixes a mark in the collective social conscious that no life penalty can equally do. But my position is slowly becoming the minority position. I guess people won’t be happy until the US of A has become just another European country.

        • Theodore Seeber

          An execution used to be able to. But in a culture of death, where executions of the unborn and the elderly are downright common? Not so much. What’s one more execution when nobody has the right to life to begin with?

          [sarcasm]And as for me, I won’t be happy until the United States becomes a theocracy with a king appointed by the Vatican. [/sarcasm]

  • pagansister

    I know where the Archbishop is coming from, however the human dignity of the victim was certainly disregarded. The murderer had dignity just because he was human? Not IMO.

  • Almario Javier

    If we’re to have the death penalty, lethal injection is one of the worst ways to go about it. If you want quick and relatively painless, hang them using the Table of Drops method, like the Singaporeans do. Quick, precise, efficient, and it’s worked for over a century. But this lethal injection just serves to make us all feel better about it, and even then as this shows it doesn’t even work at that.

  • FW Ken

    Brutality is not the issue. This botched execution doesn’t add or subtract from the issue. What he did to that girl was terrible. What we did to him was also terrible and is in no way a recompense for his own terrible crime. Vengeance maybe, but not justice. Nothing can bring the girl back to life or somehow “pay for” her murder. He should be locked up for life.

    I’ve said this before, but too many years in the criminal justice system leaves me with no confidence that the death penalty can be administered justly. I simply do not cede to the government the power to kill.

    • Manny

      And how is being “locked up for life” going to bring “recompense for his terrible crime”? Your logic is all washed up. No penalty whether the death penalty or any amount of time being locked up can make up for the crime. Justice is what satisfies society for violating its moral laws. Justice is not recompense. Justice is what brings harmony back to society when a taboo has been violated. See Plato. And the bible summarizes it nicely in a metaphor: an eye for an eye., a tooth for a tooth. Such a heinous crime requires the death penalty.

      • FW Ken

        Nothing makes up for the crime. That’s my point.

        Did you really want to bring up the eye and tooth business? Because here’s what the Lord Jesus had to say about that in Matthew 5:

        8″You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to oppose an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your other cheek to him as well. If someone wants to sue you in order to take your shirt, let him have your coat too. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.

        Personally, I don’t think either the Lord’s Old Testament quote, or His own words, constitute directions for the social order. They speak more to our hearts and how we ought to treat each other. But they aren’t irrelevant either.

        Manny… really… if I wanted to live in Europe, I’d move. But before I am an American (worse, a Texan) or a conservative (I actually have tea party sympathies), I am a Catholic. While opposition to the death penalty is not de fide, it is persuasive. Not to mention my non-religious reasons.

        • Manny

          Oh Ken I apologize for the sharp reply to you. I confused you with someone I’ve had some disagreements with.
          But I’m glad you pulled back from the Lord’s statement about turning the other cheek. There is a difference between an individual forgiving and society exacting justice. If we were to apply Christ’s words to society then NO crime could be punished. There would be no need for a jail. All criminals would be forgiven and let go. Because even a day in prison is not turning the other cheek.

          • FW Ken

            NP on thereply. I spend my days worth felons. My skin is pretty thick.

            There are reasons for locking people up besides punishment. Public safety is number one. A lot of people age out of criminality being locked up as well. And yes, rehabilitation actually happens sometimes.

  • charo charito

    He’s dead n that’s good. No botched execution cause he is dead. Has the archbishop read the stories in the bible about the two cities burned with brimstone n the giant that was slain n decapitated? Then there’s these words-the wages of sin is death- God condemns unrepentant evil – He does not condone it.