Utah Considers Bringing Back Execution by Firing Squad. Is Oklahoma Far Behind?

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Representative Paul Ray of Utah has announced that he will introduce a measure to bring back execution by firing squad in the state.

Oklahoma’s botched execution of a few weeks ago has led to a rather ugly debate about the death penally in several quarters. This debate has ranged from calls for an end to the death penalty on one side of the argument to discussion of alternate means execution other than lethal injection on the other side.

Evidently, Utah has rescinded their earlier death penalty statute and must enact a new one to conduct executions by firing squad. We don’t have that problem in Oklahoma. Our law allows for the use of firing squads right now.

Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of all this. Not that I don’t understand the debate. I do. I am just somewhat befuddled by the recent attacks on lethal injection as a means of execution by those who are opposed to the death penalty.

Oklahoma has been the focus of this debate, both because of actions to delay executions that targeted the companies that manufacture these drugs, and because of the botched execution which may have been partly due to an inability to get enough of the correct drugs. I think the attorneys who raised this challenge may have been somewhat short-sighted, at least if their goal was to end the death penalty in Oklahoma.

The state has other means of execution available to it besides lethal injection. I have no doubt whatsoever that the legislative will is to use these means, if necessary.

I wrote at the beginning of this fiasco, when attorneys for death row inmates managed to get a temporary stay of execution by challenging an Oklahoma law that allowed anonymity for the companies that manufacture the drugs used in executions, that these attorneys should be careful what they wished for. I thought then and think now that this approach failed to consider what might be the ultimate consequences.

I know the people who make the laws of this state. I can tell you that there is no sympathy among them — including from me, despite the fact that I oppose the death penalty — for the next person awaiting execution in Oklahoma. This particular inmate raped and murdered an 11 month old baby. I’ve already discussed the heinous crime which the inmate who suffered the botched execution committed.

Not only is there no sympathy for these men, but very few of the lawmakers have any qualms about the death penalty itself. I have been an outlier on this issue throughout my legislative career. When you combine my opposition to the death penalty with my opposition to abortion/embryonic stem cell research/egg harvesting/euthanasia, etc, I have been unique.

The point is that the legislative will is to enact whatever law is necessary — or in this case, to use the laws already on the books — to execute a man who raped and murdered an 11 month old baby. The Oklahoma legislature would pass any law necessary to do this, and they would be willing to be suspend rules or be called into special session to get it done. That is the degree of the legislative will in both political parties on this issue.

I repeat what I wrote earlier about the attorneys who are playing these games: Be careful what you wish for. Because, unless you are really lucky, you will surely get it.

Archbishop Coakley’s Statement on Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

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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.”

Judge Tosses Oklahoma’s Death Penalty Law

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I know one new bill I’m probably going to be voting on this year.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish has ruled the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional. Judge Parrish found that Oklahoma’s law violated due process because it blocked inmates from learning the names of the companies that manufacture the drugs used in executions.

Drugs used in executions are becoming more scarce because overseas companies refuse to make them due to their objections to the death penalty, and domestic manufacturers want to avoid the controversy surrounding the issue. Attorneys for death row inmates had requested information about the drug manufacturers as part of discovery for what sounds like a potential appeal.

I would guess that there will be legislation to deal with this before the House this year. I am opposed to the death penalty, which makes me part of a tiny minority in the Oklahoma legislature. In fact, I am the only Oklahoma legislator who opposes abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and the death penalty. I guess that makes me the only 100% pro life member of the Oklahoma legislature.

My advice to Oklahoma’s death row inmates is to be careful what you wish for. If the drugs for “painless” executions become unavailable, our Oklahoma legislators are perfectly capable of restoring older methods of execution such as the electric chair, firing squads or hanging.

From the Associated Press:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge ruled the state’s execution law unconstitutional Wednesday because its privacy provision is so strict that it that prevents inmates from finding out the source of drugs used in executions, even through the courts.

After condemned inmates gasped or complained they were “burning” during executions in January, inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner asked Oklahoma prison officials who was making the drugs that would kill them and whether the material was pure.

However, under state law, no one is allowed to disclose the source of drugs used in a lethal injection — even if an inmate sues and seeks the information as part of the discovery process. Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish said that prevents the inmates from exercising rights under the Constitution.

“I think that the secrecy statute is a violation of due process because access to the courts has been denied,” Parrish ruled.

The supply of drugs used in lethal injections has dried up in recent years as European manufacturers object to their use in executions and U.S. companies fear protests or boycotts.

Some death-penalty states have sought to buy or trade drugs with other states, and some have turned to compounding pharmacies that face less scrutiny from federal regulators. Many, like Oklahoma, made the process secret, too, to protect their suppliers.


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