Friday, December 19, 2014

Not OK: The state of Oklahoma tortured a man tonight

The immoral backstory behind Oklahoma's badly botched execution.

Not OK: The state of Oklahoma tortured a man tonight

John Walters, Jana Lewis-Harkins, Fannie Bates and Aaron Baker, from left, hold a banner during a protest at the Governor´s Mansion in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, over the planned execution of two inmates. An execution that used a new drug combination left an Oklahoma inmate writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney later Tuesday, leading prison officials to halt the proceedings before the inmate´s eventual death from a heart attack. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, KT King)
John Walters, Jana Lewis-Harkins, Fannie Bates and Aaron Baker, from left, hold a banner during a protest at the Governor's Mansion in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, over the planned execution of two inmates. An execution that used a new drug combination left an Oklahoma inmate writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney later Tuesday, leading prison officials to halt the proceedings before the inmate's eventual death from a heart attack. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, KT King)

This is not supposed to happen in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave:

McALESTER, Okla. — What was supposed to be the first of two executions here Tuesday night was halted when the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, began to twitch and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious and called out “man” and “something’s wrong,” according to witnesses.

Some people in America are squeamish about using the word "torture" -- but if this isn't torture, what the hell is?

“This was botched, and it was difficult to watch,” said David Autry, one of Mr. Lockett’s lawyers. 

A doctor started to administer the first drug, a sedative intended to knock the man out, at 6:23. Ten minutes later, the doctor said that Mr. Lockett was unconscious, and started to administer the next two drugs, a paralytic and one intended to make the heart stop.

At that point, witnesses said, things began to go awry. Mr. Lockett’s body moved, his foot shook, and he mumbled, witnesses said. 

At 6 :37, he tried to rise and exhaled loudly. At that point, prison officials pulled a curtain in front of the witnesses and the doctor discovered a “vein failure,” Mr. Patton said.

A couple of things here. Let's deal with the obvious first: Clayton Lockett (who did die, of a heart attack, 40 minutes into the process) committed a horrific crime -- he and his accomplices also tortured the 19-year-old woman that they murdered. He deserved to spend every day of the rest of his life behind bars. 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. That's why the death penalty has been virtually banned by advanced democracies, and for the most part only takes place for the most part in ruthless dictatorships like North Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia.

And there's a backstory in Oklahoma that's equal appalling. The craving by the state's top elected officials to murder Lockett and another man (whose execution was postponed in a case of too-little-too-late mercy) was so great that Gov. Mary Fallin and lawmakers went to extraordinary lengths to carry it out -- arguably circumventing the state constitution and threatening to impeach judges who tried to uphold the rule of law. All so they could kill a human being.

The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional.

The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences....

The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices.

As noted in news accounts tonight, drug companies have for the most part halted supplying the "conventional" drugs that were used in executions, so Oklahoma turned to unlawful state secrecy and used an apparently untested lethal cocktail, with predictable and pathetic results. The governor of an American state ordered the torture of a man tonight -- that is immoral and unconscionable. Unfortunately, there will be no political consequences, in a state that continues to backslide into Taliban-style barbarism.

 

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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