The Botched Execution of Clayton Lockett and Why I’m Ambivalent About the Death Penalty

Photo: Lockett’s victim, Stephanie Neiman, two weeks before her death.

In the Summer of 1999, Clayton Lockett and two accomplices, including a man named Shawn Mathis, were burglarizing a home when they were interrupted by 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman as she dropped off her friend who happened to live there. Neiman put up a fight when Lockett attempted to grab the keys to her new Chevy pickup truck. So the men beat her, wrapped her arms, mouth and legs with duct tape and then Lockett and his cohorts beat up Neiman’s friend, as well as another resident of the home and that person’s 9-month-old child.

It gets worse.

Neiman and her friends were abducted and driven out to a remote country road. Lockett and his victims waited while Mathis chipped away at the ground, digging a small grave along the road. Neiman was placed in the ditch and Lockett shot her with a sawed off shotgun. But she survived and began pleading for her life. Another shot, but this time the gun jammed. A third shot hit its target.

But Stephanie Neiman was still alive. So Lockett and Mathis buried her anyway. Alive.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. After being prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to death, with the ruling upheld by an Oklahoma appellate court, Lockett was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in McAlester, OK. The chemical cocktail used for the execution hadn’t been tested. The Guardian‘s Katie Fretland reported earlier in the week:

The state plans to lethally inject Lockett…with midazolam followed by vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Florida has used a similar method, but it employed a dose of midazolam that is five times greater. And Ohio used midazolam with a different drug, hydromorphone, in the January execution of Dennis McGuire, which took longer than 20 minutes.

Oklahoma corrections spokesman Jerry Massie briefed the media and said the executions will likely take longer than normal, because the first drug is expected to work more slowly.

“Don’t be surprised,” Massie said.

In spite of Massie’s eerie caveat, it appears as though corrections officials administering the injections were very surprised when the execution went nightmarishly awry.

Ten minutes into the procedure, Lockett lapsed into unconsciousness. But then, minutes later, he began to writhe and convulse. The AP reported that Lockett was “clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.” The convulsing and gasping reportedly continued for another 10 minutes. Spectators were blocked from continuing to view the scene. The execution was finally aborted after an agonizing 24 minutes. But Lockett died of a heart attack more than an hour later.

It turns out the chemicals failed to rush into Lockett’s body quickly enough — something having to do with a “vein failure” — and hence the slow death. Clayton Lockett was sentenced in a court of law to die, and death is what he got. Though it should never have happened this way.

I wanted to lead off this post with the story of what exactly Lockett did to find himself strapped to a gurney inside an execution chamber. In discussions of the death penalty, it’s often too easy to overlook or even forget what execution-worthy trespasses were committed, therefore the criminal is often granted undue sympathy. Make no mistake, Lockett was the worst of the worst — burying a teenager alive, beating a 9-month-old baby, multiple kidnappings, burglary and inflicting psychological torture upon the slain teen’s friends by forcing them to watch. Unforgivable and worthy of harsh punishment.

Clearly, I’m ambivalent about the death penalty. On one hand, I can’t help but to be satisfied that Lockett is gone. Admittedly, this is nothing more than gut instinct and a very emotional, primal, human sense of cold, hard justice. This man took a young woman’s life in one of the most grisly ways possible and therefore I refuse to shed a tear, nor am I capable of doing so, over the fact that the state of Oklahoma forcibly shuffled him off this mortal coil.

On the other hand, and objectively speaking, the death penalty has proved to be an ineffective deterrent, and in terms of recidivism, locking up murderers like Lockett for the rest of his life without parole takes care of that. But what truly makes the death penalty less appealing are circumstances like this horrendously botched execution along with the reality that, according to a recent study, 4.1 percent or one in 25 Americans who are sentenced to die happen to be innocent.

That’s egregiously unacceptable. Unless the penalty can be carried out in a more humane way, and unless there’s indisputable proof of guilt either ascertained by a full and uncoerced confession or based on undeniable DNA evidence which has been verified, tested, re-tested and exhaustively adjudicated, the death penalty shouldn’t be a sentencing option. There’s no reason, in spite of the brutal nature of his crimes, that Lockett should have died in that practically medieval way. His penalty was death, not 24 minutes of what can only be defined as state-induced torture… and then eventual death. Torture wasn’t part of the deal. If Jerry Massie and others knew there could be a problem, why risk the Department of Corrections’ reputation as well as the possibility that the felon might survive? Why attempt an experimental process? The DOC had one job: make sure Lockett dies, and dies expeditiously. They failed to do their job in the most spectacularly cruel and unusual way possible.

It turns out death penalty states including Oklahoma have been scrambling to find new chemical combinations due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies stopped producing the “safest” drug previously used in lethal injections: sodium thiopental. So the guilt is obviously shared among many, though many drug companies have discontinued sodium thiopental for humanitarian reasons.

Do I believe the world is a better place without Lockett in it? I have to be honest and say absolutely — yes. But that is in no way an endorsement of how it occurred or the system as it currently exists. Executions, if they are to continue here, should be noticeably rare and reserved for the most vile and unrepentant among us. However, unless we can guarantee proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and with airtight certainty, and unless a process can be devised that’s both quick and fool-proof, the death penalty, as with any policy this morally delicate and yet this disturbingly imperfect, should be shelved.

One last thing: don’t forget Stephanie Neiman. The reason Lockett chose to bury her alive was because she bravely told him that if she were to be set free she would call the police. For that, she was killed and under circumstances arguably more harrowing than Lockett’s. She died trying to do the right thing, and her killer died because he did one of the worst things imaginable.

  • kcz

    I don’t care if my state abolishes the death penalty; lefties are so spineless I don’t expect anything else from them. However, if anybody does to one of my girls what Lockett did to that girl, I will find him before or even after the cops get him, and he will die but it will take much longer than 45 minutes and he will be begging me to kill him sooner. And I won’t even need a gun to do it so go ahead and outlaw guns, you morons, I will manage.

  • number06

    Lets read his crime an d see if you still have ANY compassion: http://www.ok.gov/oag/documents/Lockett%20Clemency%20brf.pdf

  • Barcode

    The reason the death penalty is not a deterrent is because of the civility of it. The people who would do things that could get them put on death row know that they are going to be able to appeal for another stack of years and possibly get paroled if enough defense can be shown. Some of them may even plan on being executed as a little form of suicide, but they don’t have the sand to do it themselves, so the state is the angel of death for them.
    If someone tells you that you will be killed if someone rapes your wife or child and you try to stop them, your emotions may overcome logic and some people are just not afraid of dying and you may do it anyway. If someone tells you that if you kill someone, you could be put to a horrible anguishing death over a period of days? That is a little more thought provoking. I don’t say we kill everyone who kills someone but in cases like this death should be quick and hard to think about.
    As for the arguement that locking someone up for life is just as good to prevent recidivism. Thats not the point. You didn’t play by the rules you are voted off the planet. We don’t need someone who would do this in the world and I don’t want them to get conjugal visits to pass their psychopathic DNA on to offspring. It could be a deterrent if it was made more horrific and therefore “scary”, and another point is to end that creature. If they at some point in time believed this was the correct thing for them to do at the given time they are a danger and need to be removed, not detained, not kept, not fed. Removed.

  • Robin

    The death penalty is not about the criminal. Its about us.
    What kind of a society are we?

    We know he is guilty of a disgusting crime. He is beyond any reasonable doubt, not somebody we’d ever want to have back out on the streets. For sure.
    We’re convinced he’s not one of the 1 in 25 cases where we’re charging the wrong man for someone else’s crime. Got it.

    Now, are we as callous, as sloppy, as knee-jerk, and as vicious as he is?
    I don’t want the taxpayers to have to support this guy for another 50 years of prison life, any more than anybody else does.

    Yet, I also think we are able to be better, more civilized, reasonable human beings.
    Otherwise, we’re no better than him.

    Personally, I happen to believe a long life in prison, particularly in solitary confinement, is a way worse punishment than death.
    However, if you must kill him, please, get it over with swiftly + let’s be done with it.
    Don’t make it any more grotesque than it needs to be.

  • CaliforniaIsADream

    Too bad for him. I have no sympathy for murderers who destroy not only those they kill but the families and friends of the victims whose lives are ruined. Screw these scumbags…death penalty for those whose guilt is incontrovertible and life for those whose guilt is circumstantial.

  • hammy

    Serves him right he had no mercy for his victims he got what he deserved .

  • Judy Gifford

    Why are people more concerned about how this murderer died than his victims? The suffering of Stephanie and that innocent baby? He was lucky he wasn’t turned loose to the public! Lockett is yet to answer for the blood on his hands regardless of what is done according to the world’s “sense of justice” even though his physical body is dead. That brave young woman will be rewarded for her goodness and courage. What we are really talking about in this post is the “audience” that watched, by choice or by occupation, that has to live with the image of an “inhumane, execution gone wrong”…know the difference, people. Justice was served and, in too many cases, the guilty are never caught or punished the way they should be. Things “go wrong.” That’s life. If you don’t want to see someone suffer, the last place you should go is to an execution. How can anyone care more about the way a cold hearted murderer dies than his victim who did nothing to deserve their fate?

  • DiskusSux

    Execution by automated firing squad would be MUCH more reliable, swifter, and entertainingly messier.

    Lockett got his, and that’s what good there was in this. He will NEVER do that to anyone else, ever. And THAT is what the death penalty does–it stops one a-hole from ever doing what they did ever again.

  • Stuven Farlow

    GOOD! F*** em!

    1) sociopaths that understand what they are doing is wrong and just don’t care, 2) mentally ill people who truly don’t understand what they are doing, and 3) people who kill under an extreme emotional state (e.g. catching their spouse in bed cheating, avenging a child’s death, etc)
    .- well if they dont know what they are doing when they kill someone, then stick em in the chair and tell em there going to disneyland. If they are that crazy they should be destroyed, a violent burden on mankind that dont deserve to be kept alive. Iam sure if it was your family or loved one you would feel different but it is not so you try and defend a sick sub human.

    the way you try and rationalize and exempt this behavior is sickening

  • Cazzie

    We said.
    It is my option that the death penalty is not successful because life is not taken seriously in the first place. People who do not respect life will not fear death by their deeds, they will continue their rein knowing full well we all die anyway. When such blaten evidence convicts a violent criminal, man or women, death should be immediate. We know it’s not.
    The most crippling obstacle in our society is hypocrisy.

  • http://www.osborneink.com/ OsborneInk

    I share your ambivalence, Bob. I offered testimony in a death penalty case some years ago and wound up testifying voir dire in his co-defendant’s trial. David Lee Riley has been found guilty by two different juries of robbing his friend and then shooting him in the back of the head, then shooting him again and again to stop his screaming.

    Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE who knew David Lee Riley — especially his pregnant teenage girlfriend, who suffered injuries when he shoved her down a flight of stairs — agreed that he would eventually kill someone some day. In all likelihood, Riley will still be alive and appealing his decision long after the DA, and the judges who read his sentence twice, have retired.

    I’m not a fan of the way that capital punishment has been disproportionately used on minorities, and I really hate that innocent people have been put to death. But if David Lee Riley was put to death tomorrow, even in a way that involved excruciating agony, I would meet my friends at the bar, buy the first round, and mark the world a better place for his absence. I can’t muster any empathy for his suffering.

  • Tort Master

    An honest person involved in the court system will tell you this: It’s a terrible way to kill somebody. It’s the best system in the world today, but it is simply not up to the task. Too many innocents are sent to death row. That won’t stop Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, who, by virtue of refusing to Expand Medicaid is, herself, forcing Oklahomans to die slow, painful deaths without health care. We just don’t know the names of her victims yet.

  • TheWhiteRevival

    Any human being that is against the death penalty has never been close to something like this. Go ahead spend all your time forcing your SELFISH views on families of victims that are hurting. In the end. WE ALL DIE.. We just hurry a scumbags fate just like that scumbag hurried ANOTHER INNOCENT humans fate . Im sorry that you are so weak you can’t handle life and how hard and just plain crappy it is. But you people have NO RIGHT to force your weakness on hurting people just so you can sit back a feel all self righteous about your selfish view points. You are the same people that will cry when an animal is locked in a cage but when a human slaughters an innocent child all you want to do is throw them in a cage..
    One day you will wake up and something horrible will have happened to somebody you love. Lets see where you stand at that point. WE ARE ALL going to die at some point. Killing a scumbag isn’t a problem. Letting them live and haunt the relatives of the people they hurt is a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION.. you people disgust me

    • Treading_Water

      But what if someone you love is falsely convicted and executed for a murder they did not commit? There are murder convictions that have been overturned due to new evidence or a confession from a different person and executions that have been carried out despite evidence of the innocence of the convicted. Would it make you feel differently if one of your family members was killed by the state erroneously? I mean, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet, right?

      • Christopher Foxx

        I mean, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet, right?

        And, according to TheWhiteRevival, “In the end. WE ALL DIE.” so what’s the big deal about bringing about the inevitable earlier? Just because the person is innocent doesn’t change the fact that they will die someday, so what’s the problem about making someday today?

      • TheWhiteRevival

        Same old tired azz argument. Go make that argument to the people who live in fear everyday that the murderer of their loved ones will go free. I doubt they care. Humans are not perfect.

  • dtackett_slp@ hotmail. com

    Who cares. His death was much more humane than he deserved. Burn, baby, burn

  • GrafZeppelin127

    I’m ambivalent about the death penalty too.

    I used to be all for it. Then in college I read a book called Fatal Vision, about some grisly murders committed in 1970 on Fort Bragg and nine years’ worth of investigations and legal wranglings that ultimately led to the conviction of Jeffrey MacDonald. A 26-year-old Green Beret doctor at the time of the murders, MacDonald claimed that a gang of “drug-crazed hippies” had entered his home late at night, beat him, stabbed him, left him unconscious, and when he came to he found his pregnant wife and two young daughters brutally slaughtered. Army investigators didn’t believe him, but an Article 32 investigative proceeding exonerated him. But his behaviour after he left the Army made his father-in-law suspicious, and long story short, the Justice Department reopened the case, got the FBI to re-investigate, indicted MacDonald in 1975, and in 1979 he was finally convicted. He remains in prison to this day.

    Now, I absolutely, positively, and in all other ways do NOT want to open up a debate about the MacDonald case. Such debates can get very, very ugly. Let’s just say that unlike practically everyone else who read Fatal Vision, I had reservations about whether MacDonald was actually guilty; I was particularly bothered by how the various investigations and prosecutions were conducted. Years of study and debate and several books, articles, judicial decisions, primary sources, &c. later, I’ve basically reached the same conclusion that Errol Morris did: Whether MacDonald is guilty or not, the manner in which his conviction was obtained and maintained should give everyone interested in justice pause.

    Some of the more troubling conversations I had over the years included statements by people thoroughly convinced of MacDonald’s guilt, that they’re OK with the prosecutorial and investigative misconduct that undoubtedly occurred, because MacDonald is guilty and belongs in prison, so the outcome is right. “I would rather that,” said one, referring to said misconduct, “than MacDonald going free while guilty of murder.” The problem with that, obviously, is the circular reasoning: MacDonald was convicted, therefore he is guilty, but if he was convicted as a result of prosecutorial and investigative misconduct, then conviction was wrongfully obtained and cannot in itself be the basis to state or conclude that he is guilty. He may very well be, but that’s not really the point anymore.

    The thought that MacDonald is innocent is no less awful than the thought that he is guilty. In a way, it’s even more awful. As Alan Dershowitz once said of MacDonald, “This is either the most horrible, merciless, brutal killer imaginable, or one of the most victimized men in American legal history; there’s no in-between.” And no way to really know.

    But again, I don’t really want to talk about MacDonald. If nothing else, the case illustrates just how flawed and fallible our justice system really is. Knowing how Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted — regardless of whether he actually committed the murders — and how that conviction has withstood subsequent factual and legal challenges, I could no longer unequivocally support an un-correctable remedy like the death penalty. There are thousands of innocents in America’s prisons, whether Jeffrey MacDonald is one of them or not.

    I haven’t completely abandoned support for the death penalty. But I’ll never be nearly as certain of it as I was 25 years ago.

    • mike

      I get that the death penalty is absolute and cannot be undone! Yet in this case they left witnesses and DNA that are irrefutable Take the Sandy Hook Murderer where there is no doubt about his guilt! If he had lived I believe he should have gotten death! Some people are evil and love to cause misery and enjoy the pain!

      • GrafZeppelin127

        As I said, I’m not totally against it. But absolute certainty of guilt is rare, and extremely difficult to establish.

        • Christopher Foxx

          I think that a “good” person would see the death penalty as wrong. Because it’s just wrong to kill people, because it hardens society and makes folks generally harsher with each other than they should be, etc. And I’d like to think that I’m a “good” person.

          But, honestly, I don’t have any strong morally-based feeling that the death penalty should never be used. I think there are some folks so bad and so irredeemable that the world is better off without them in it.

          But killing someone is an irreversible act. It’s tragic enough when someone has spent years, which they will never get back, in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. You can’t give them the time back but other attempts at compensation are possible. Not so if you’re killed them.

          So even for the truly unrepentant excessively heinous criminal, there should be indisputable, impartial physical evidence they committed the crime (anyone convicted on the basis of witness testimony should not be non death row) and experienced, highly competent defense attorneys providing them with a well-funded defense.

      • Christopher Foxx

        And exclamation points! Make sure you use them! Every sentence! It makes whatever you say more convincing! Exclamation points mean you don’t have to make a reasonable argument! Just overpower everyone with your emphaticness!

  • Scott Aly

    I still like hanging, followed by firing squad

  • Christopher Foxx

    Unless the penalty can be carried out in a more humane way…

    The DOC had one job: make sure Lockett dies, and dies expeditiously.

    So why all the messing around with chemicals and uncertainties and methods that can have things go wrong even when performed correctly (“vein failure”)?

    If we, as a country, decide we’re going to have the death penalty then make it humane which means not drawn out an not subject to problems. Strap the condemned to the chair and put two shots in their head. Quick, clean and certain.

    And being able to pull a curtain when things go wrong should not be allowed. If we, as a country, decide we’re going to have the death penalty then we don’t get to hide it from ourselves.

  • Aaron Litz

    One big reason why I am opposed to the death penalty is because it is run by humans, and humans are fallible, which means that innocent people WILL be put to death as long as death is an option.

    And innocent people are put to death.

    I’ve also been reading about how many police departments are fighting tooth and nail to not allow retrials with DNA evidence that they know will likely result in inmates being vindicated, simply because the police departments are more concerned with their record of having “got their man” than in the actual truth of the guilt or innocence of “their man.” This includes death row inmates.

    Innocent people will continue to be executed even with DNA evidence simply because the legal system is not perfect, and knowing that innocent people will be put to death is just not something I can tolerate.

  • muselet

    Bob, I understand why you’re ambivalent about the death penalty. I even understand why some are strongly in favor of it.

    I’m not.

    Whenever I’ve tried to have a reasonable discussion—not a debate, but a conversation—about the death penalty, I’ve had death-penalty supporters demand to know, “If someone you love were murdered, wouldn’t you want the murderer executed?”

    My response is always, “If someone I love were murdered, I’d want to find the person responsible and kill them with my bare hands. However, I want the society I live in to behave better than my first, worst reaction.”

    Clayton Lockett deserved to be punished for his crimes. He deserved to be segregated from society for the rest of his life. Killing him—whether relatively cleanly, as planned, or stupidly and horrifically, as actually happened—does not serve society’s interests. As far as I can tell, revenge doesn’t really serve anyone’s interests.

    I respect people who are in favor of the death penalty (with the exception of those who gleefully celebrate it—those folks give me the screaming abdabs), but I’ve never heard a clear and convincing argument for it that doesn’t ultimately come down to revenge, and that’s before we consider the (in)adequacy of defense attorneys, ambitious prosecutors and wrongful convictions that happen because of neither of those things.

    I’m not going to change anyone’s mind and, frankly, I’m not trying to. Just my €0.014.

    –alopecia

    • j hentai

      excellently said!

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Thanks for that.

    • Christopher Foxx

      but I’ve never heard a clear and convincing argument for it that doesn’t ultimately come down to revenge

      Reason for the is obvious: There isn’t one.

      It’s why those death-penalty supporters demand to know “What if it were your loved one who was murdered?” They’re not trying to appeal to your logic.

      • muselet

        I wouldn’t go that far. There may be an argument for the death penalty that doesn’t boil down to revenge, but I haven’t encountered it. If there is one, I’d love to hear it.

        –alopecia

        • Christopher Foxx

          I would go that far. I’ve read and participated in a LOT of discussion about the death penalty. IN all of those, over many years, I’ve never seen a reason that didn’t, once you removed the bling and flair, that didn’t come down to a desire for revenge. Some also have a smattering of political gain as a motive, but never without the desire for payback also being there.

          • Dandelo disintegrates

            Retribution is part of justice.

          • Christopher Foxx

            Retribution is part of justice.

            Retribution has a different meaning than revenge, vengeance, payback, etc. So I’m not sure how your comment works as a response.

      • Lauren S.

        One clear (and convincing) reason for pursuing the death penalty over life in prison? How about the financial cost of executing an inmate being substantially lower than keeping them alive for 20+ years! Ultimately, tax paying citizens must contribute thousands of dollars more to keep someone behind bars than they would if said person were executed.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but does this not constitute as a cerebral argument for the death penalty? Revenge aside, the death penalty IS more logical and financially sound option.

        -apparently, one of “those death-penalty supporters”

        • Christopher Foxx

          Ultimately, tax paying citizens must contribute thousands of dollars more to keep someone behind bars than they would if said person were executed.

          Can you provide a source for that? Because all the studies I’ve seen show that it’s more expensive (what with the appeals, etc.) to prosecute a death penalty case and carry out an execution than to keep the criminal in jail for a very long time. Even moreso when you consider the economic benefits possible if you make use of the prisoners in a productive way rather than just sticking them in cells.

          • Lauren S.
          • Christopher Foxx

            http://www.fed-soc. org/publications/detail/the-next-time-someone-says-the-death-penalty-costs-more-than-life-in-prison-show-them-this-article

            This article (and others like it) argues that the reason the death penalty is so expensive to impose is because of all the opposition to it. Essentially that if things were not as they are then it wouldn’t cost as much.

            But things are as they are. Yes, it would be easier to lift a boulder if rock didn’t weigh so much. That is a true statement. But rocks do way that much, and we have to deal with things as they are.

            Followed to it’s logical conclusion, the article’s argument is that it would be cheaper to kill folks if we just did away with pesky things like appeals or even the original trial. Just shoot the guy when he’s charged and be done with it.

            Admittedly there’s a reductio ad absurdum on my part there to make the point. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is straightforward absurdity in the article you cited.

          • Lauren S.

            Actually, the cost is much closer than I originally thought…

            http://www.nbcrightnow.com/story/15519792/what-costs-more-the-death-penalty-or-life-in-prison

          • Christopher Foxx

            Lauren S.:Ultimately, tax paying citizens must contribute thousands of dollars more to keep someone behind bars than they would if said person were executed.

            CFoxx:Can you provide a source for that?

            Source provided by Lauren S:

            even leaving out some death penalty costs, the death penalty ($1.7 million) would still likely have been the more expensive option than life in prison ($1.3 million)

            Your apology is accepted.

          • Lauren S.

            Could’ve done without the smug condescension. I posted the article, thus I am well aware of the current stats ;) Stay classy.

          • Christopher Foxx

            Sorry for coming across as smug. It wasn’t rally intended. But you were wrong and, while I greatly admire your willingness to post an article showing that, you did so essentially without comment other than to suggest the difference, a 30% difference, as minor. Particularly in light of your previous claim that it was “substantially” more expense to house than kill.

            Again, apologies for any excessive smugness on my part, but it was in response to your resistance to fully note the error.

    • GrafZeppelin127

      “If someone I love were murdered, I’d want to find the person
      responsible and kill them with my bare hands. However, I want the
      society I live in to behave better than my first, worst reaction.”

      That’s why impartiality and objectivity are so important in our judicial system. That’s why we don’t want people representing themselves in court.

      • muselet

        Agreed.

        –alopecia

  • Schneibster

    I’m against it, for all the reasons you give, Bob. And one other: the racial imbalance.

    • TheWhiteRevival

      The racial imbalance. Have you ever for once thought about the victim? Have you ever for once thought hmmm maybe they do commit a lot of the crimes? you anti people always have the worst arguments. They are all based in making yourself feel better about what you did and not whats better for the human race..

      • Schneibster

        What’s the victim matter if you get the wrong person due to racial prejudice?

        • mike

          He wasn’t the wrong person my man!

          • Christopher Foxx

            He wasn’t the wrong person my man!

            This time, mike. And nobody is arguing it wasn’t.

            But what about all of the others where it was the wrong person sentenced to die? (Which is what folks actually were talking about.)

          • Schneibster

            This time.

            On edit, what Christopher said.

  • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

    I said on my own blog a while back, that I’m not always liberal, and one of the areas is when it comes to the death penalty. Do I think it’s overused, and abused? Absolutely. However, there’s a very limited set of circumstances where I think it’s appropriate. First, it has to be a particularly heinous crime (like this one). Second, there has to be absolutely no doubt that the person convicted of it is actually the person who did it. Third, that person should have received the best representation in court possible.

    If those factors are in place, then I have no problem with the death penalty, not because I have any belief that it prevents or deters other crimes, but just because the world is better off without that person in it. That said, the penalty should be quick and effective, and the current methods are anything but, and apparently the level of incompetence in carrying it out is astonishing.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Agree.

    • Chris Carr

      Well said. If you want to see a case for the death penalty have a read “Mindhunter” and against “Executioner Pierrepoint: An Autobiography”. I’m generally against it except for cases of extreme cruelty and an absence of empathy from the killer. Sadly there are some people in this world who are a danger to society because they have serious issues. In this case the murderer buried his victim alive. Just imagine the fear that poor girl went through!! It doesn’t excuse what happened at the execution and I hope that they get their act together. But ‘ll be honest and say a part of me does not feel much sympathy for Clayton Lockett due to the cruelty he showed to others, I feel he got his karma.

    • Tort Master

      Norbroo, most of those factors have never been in place and will, most likely, never be in place. Let’s run through them:

      “First, it has to be a particularly heinous crime (like this one). Second, there has to be absolutely no doubt that the person convicted of it is actually the person who did it. Third, that person should have received the best representation in court possible.

      With our laws, as they stand presently, the first factor appears to be in place. But, not too long ago, people were executed for witchcraft. Laws can be changed. The second factor is supposedly already in place with the “no reasonable doubt” and “beyond a shadow of a doubt” standards depending on the jurisdiction–yet we still put innocent people on death row. We have the best legal system in the world–I truly believe that–but it is not up to the task of killing people. Governor Rick Perry killed a demonstrably innocent person in Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004. People are still being let out of death row because DNA has revealed their unimpeachable innocence. What about the cases that don’t involve DNA? You can still die from lethal injection based on eyewitness testimony, and that’s a sin. As for your third factor, the state pays crap wages to people who defend death penalty cases, and, moreover, judges tend to winnow out the hard-charging types. They are the least likely to be assigned to a death penalty case in many, maybe most, jurisdictions. I’ve seen it myself.

      • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

        You’re mistaken on point 3, in that New York, when it had a death penalty, also had a specialized “capital defenders unit” which was considered to be so good, that DA’s had to have an exceptional case to even think about seeking the death penalty. They were automatically assigned the moment those charges were filed, and far more often than not, DA’s decided not to seek them. So, it’s possible, it’s just a matter of political will.

        As to point 2, you’re also missing the point about that. While yes, there are a number of cases, even the majority, where there is or may be some doubt, there are cases where there is absolutely no doubt. They’re not as common, but they may also fall in the “1 in 25″ or “1 in 20″ category. For example, there was a man put to death last year in Ohio for murder. The specifics were that he raped and killed a six month old girl. He admitted to it, but his reason for why he shouldn’t receive the death penalty was that he “didn’t meant to kill her.” Note that he wasn’t claiming innocence.

        Finally, you missed the main argument. What I said was that there were only a limited set of circumstances where I would support the death penalty, and you’re arguing based on cases where I don’t think it should have been applied.

  • John

    For those of you that are against the death penalty remember this, Lobbiest are banking on your feelings, what do I mean? The For profit prison system in the US does not want the death penalty, the money stops, they want to lock them all up forever, money never ends. The ones that are definately guilty without a doubt and should be sentenced to death, and the ones that are exonerated of there crimes there needs to be a system in place to lock up those that put them in prison, the problem with the system is this, The police, judges, prosecutors that lie and plant evidence should be brought to justice,, but what happens? Nothing in most cases, in some they lose there jobs, this needs to change, they are just as much as much of a criminal as anyone else that commits a crime. PERIOD! Until we the people stand up for what is right the system will never change, hopefully all will be exonerated but we know that’s not the case. There is not always DNA to be tested, we need to make it a major crime to lie to convict someone.

    • JozefAL

      And what do we do about the “ones that are exonerated” but have been put to death because the JURY found them “guilty without a doubt?” You seem to have missed the little point Bob made with this: “But what truly makes the death penalty less appealing are circumstances like this horrendously botched execution along with the reality that, according to a recent study, 4.1 percent or one in 25 Americans who are sentenced to die happen to be innocent.”

    • Tort Master

      John, I have to heartily agree and heartily disagree with your comment! Let’s get the unpleasantness of our disagreement out of the way first.

      If every person who has been put to death by the state since 1976 were still alive, that would still equal only .000606% of the current prison population. (1,374 ÷ 2,266,800). No prison lobbyist cares about .0006%.

      On the other hand, your statement about planting evidence, false charges and prosecutorial misconduct is right on the money. Currently, prosecutors, police and judges have immunity from prosecution. That should not be the law in a death penalty case. That, I think, would bring a small but valuable measure of fairness to the proceedings.

      I would be in favor of hard labor camps for death row inmates rather than the death penalty. Put them to work, with no TVs or radios. On the other hand, if you convict an innocent person, the punishment to the state should be enormous. Just a few additional thoughts.

    • Christopher Foxx

      John, you’re making an argument for not privatizing prisons. For not allowing for-profit businesses to run them.
      You’re not making an argument that supports killing prisoners.

      there needs to be a system in place to lock up those that put them in prison

      Oh, I fully agree with that. Exempting prosecutors and judges, etc., from the consequences of their illegal actions is a travesty. They are officers of the court, charged and sworn to uphold and protect the system. If they violate it they should be held accountable for that.

      Actually, given their positions the penalties for them should be particularly harsh. (Giving them the same sentence they arranged for the wrongly convicted person perhaps.)

  • premie

    If we are discussing the means of execution, I think we should bring back the guillotine. Sure it looks bad but its more humane than forcing someone’s organs to fail with chemicals. No pain, over in an instant. Definitely not any more cruel than any other way. Maybe unusual though…

    • JozefAL

      Except there are documented cases where the accused’s head wasn’t properly fitted into the block so the blade doesn’t slice clean through, leading to the head’s staying attached to the body by a small bit of skin, sinew or even muscle.

      • premie

        Well, user error is always going to be an issue. You would hope that the person fitting the convict’s head in the block would do it properly. Also, even if the head were to remain attached by a bit of skin or other tissue, I think the key is that the spine is severed at the neck, right? A small attachment like you describe would not affect the level of suffering felt by the convict.

    • Jonathan Vlietstra

      Agreed, or beheading with an executioners axe. A beheading is much more humane than being strapped to a bed and injected with chemicals for a painful death over several minutes, assuming it works right.

    • Mark J

      Apparently death by decapitation isn’t instantaneous. Research done at the time shows a severed head survives for around 30 seconds afterward:
      http://www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com/how-much-does-a-beheading-hurt-and-how-long-is-a-severed-head-conscious-after-a-beheading/

  • gescove

    We understandably confuse revenge for justice. But we need to mature beyond our desire for revenge. The simple fact is that our legal system, like all human endeavors, is flawed. We know that innocent people are arrested, prosecuted, convicted, punished, and put to death sometimes. But the death penalty means that we can NEVER correct our error.

  • anonymous

    Don’t forget about the other woman that was raped by Clayton Lockett and his cousins. Part of her is dead now too. She will never get back what they took from her that day.

    • Nick L.

      Exactly. Killing this guy doesn’t make her whole again or bring the other girl back to life.

      • rickjr62

        The victims are hardly ever remembered. When a botched execution fails all we hear about is how unjust and inhumane the process is. How did their victims die? Why isn’t their suffering taken into consideration? They never had a chance or a choice in the matter.

        This rapist murderer got what he deserved and the world is better off without him. Now get on with the next guy.

      • TheWhiteRevival

        and you are going to speak for her and tell us what will make her feel better? Do you feel better for saying that. Don’t make assumptions like that. She may damn well be hurting and scared knowing that her attacker is still alive and can escape.

        • Nick L.

          Considering the post I was responding to said “She will never get back what they took from her that day”, I am not sure why you have a specific problem with what I said. I suppose you are just a pro-murder troll.

  • Ellen Kuhlmann

    I’ve been against the death penalty since I attended a lecture in college, the speaker had spent 10 years on death row in Florida, was only released when another man confessed to the crime he was committed for. He was a black man on vacation, lived in Chicago, and identified by a witness as the perp.
    The justice system cannot guarantee that only the guilty get convicted, if you have the death penalty, occasionally you will execute the innocent. Another point, not mentioned here, is that is it much more cost effective to imprison someone for life than to execute them, due to all the appeals etc death penalty cases entail.

  • Nick L.

    The death penalty is murder porn for the “respectable” crowd. Makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside to think about someone else strapping a purely defenseless human being to a table and injecting them with chemicals meant to end their life. If they suffer, all the better for their little revenge boners.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      I wonder how many of the “respectable” crowd would change their tune if they actually saw an execution take place. Especially one that was brutally bungled as this one was.

      • formerlywhatithink

        What I would want is if a jury, or a judge, sentences someone to death, they must carry out the execution. I think, well, at least hope, that would cause people to rethink why they are sentencing someone to death and what it entails.

        • mike

          So you think a cat like Bundy didn’t get justice? He only murdered 40 women and children!

      • Christopher Foxx

        I wonder how many of the “respectable” crowd would change their tune if they actually saw an execution take place.

        The fact that a curtain exists to hid the details of the execution from public eyes, particularly as the execution goes wrong, is about all the indication I need to know that the process is simply wrong. And that all the people involved know that.

        When you’re doing something you believe to be right, you don’t feel any need to hide it.

        • mike

          HE buried a woman alive and beat a 9 month old the death penalty is appropriate for a piece of filth like this!

          • Nick L.

            Then sign up to kill him. If you want someone dead, then at least do it with your own hands.

          • mike

            Dude that is absurd you can’t just sign up to execute people! Do you have children? Trust me if a turd like this did what he did to 1 of my 2 I would be glad to take him out! Shoot him twice and then bury his ass alive! Not once have you expressed sympathy for the victim!
            I hate the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent because it is! The douche bag will never kill or hurt anyone again! You clowns act like these guys don’t keep committing felonies and abuses after they get put into prison! They kill while in prison! They rape the weak in prison! He got what he deserved!

          • Nick L.

            I am not required to show sympathy for the victim (even though I feel it). Like it or not, our sympathy for the victim should not inform punishment under a just legal system. Should crimes against victims that remind you of a family member be punished more severely than those that don’t? Get a tighter hold on your horses and think about what it says about you that you derive so much satisfaction out of the murder of defenseless people.

          • Christopher Foxx

            I hate the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent because it is!

            No, it’s not. Yes, this particular person won’t hurt anyone again. So it is does prevent that (so would life in prison). But it’s been shown many times that the execution of criminal X does nothing to deter criminals A thru Z from committing their crimes. It is not a deterrent.

            They kill while in prison! They rape the weak in prison!

            OK, you’ve confused me. You want the harshest penalty possible, but at the same time you’re worried about the possible mistreatment of other criminals?

          • Christopher Foxx

            Then sign up to kill him. If you want someone dead, then at least do it with your own hands.

            Where did I say I wanted someone dead?

          • Nick L.

            Yeah. Not a reply to you. It was to that mike guy

          • Christopher Foxx

            Nick L. “Yeah. Not a reply to you. It was to that mike guy

            You’re right, it was. I missed that. Sorry!

          • Christopher Foxx

            HE buried a woman alive and beat a 9 month old the death penalty is appropriate for a piece of filth like this!

            Then why are the people carrying it out so ashamed of what they are doing?

        • mike

          Do you know what these guys did they deserve no forgiveness! They deserve to shit their pants while fearing the end is near just like the innocent they kill! What if it was your daughter who was robbed, beaten, shot, and buried alive while she was begging for her life? My good man he is where he belongs and he was lucky to put to sleep like a loved pet instead of the electric chair! Think about the last hour of the 19 yr. old life and how horrifying it was for her! Honestly I am not getting the outcry for this monster! It’s as if bleeding hearts make the 2 lives equal! The innocent white 19 yr. old girl and the 38 yr. old monster!

          • Christopher Foxx

            Do you know what these guys did they deserve no forgiveness!

            Where did I say anything about forgiving them?

          • Christopher Foxx

            mike: “What if it was your daughter who was robbed, beaten, shot, and buried alive while she was begging for her life?

            Then I’d want a few hours alone in a room with the guy. Just him, me and my red hot poker.

            Which is exactly why I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near him.

      • Mimi

        For that human scum, not only would I not change my tune, I would be cheering the scumbag’s pain!

        • Victor_the_Crab

          Uh hm, okay. Just remember to be inside before sunrise or you’ll shrivel up to nothing.

          • Mimi

            Victor, why don’t you take some of the sympathy you feel for the prisoner and put that toward the 19-year-old buried alive. And Nick, hell, yeah, I’d kill scum like this. Let me at ‘em.

          • Victor_the_Crab

            You are horribly and ignorantly mistaken if you think I have sympathy for this individual. I’m interested in justice, not blood. The fact that you’d be willing to kill makes you just as big a scum as Clayton Lockett. The difference between the two of you though is that you’re allowed to roam free in society with that frightening attitude of yours.

            Get help!

  • Tom Blue

    It isn’t the execution of Lockett, Bob; as botched as it was he didn’t suffer nearly as much or as long as his victims did, I daresay. Although I would note that he had a Constitutional right to an execution that was not cruel or unusual, that’s a matter of perspective, I guess. When you are being killed by the State, it should be within constitutional constraints, it would seem.

    The argument against the death penalty, Bob, is better illustrated by the execution of Cameron Todd Jones, in which it was too late disclosed that a crime hadn’t even been committed. It is inevitable in a heavy and secretive bureaucracy that an innocent person will eventually be executed. Now, a lot of people accept that reality for the satisfaction of seeing a Lockett pay for his wholly appalling crimes.

    And it isn’t just Cameron Todd Jones, innocent of the crime charged because there wasn’t a crime. There is also the wholly arbitrary means by which the death sentence is applied. Texas, of course, loves it’s frequent executions. And there is substantial evidence that others besides Jones have been wrongfully executed.

    There is also the wholly arbitrary nature of the selection of capitol cases, the methods of jury selection (which mandates not a jury of one’s peers but a jury predisposed to hand out the death penalty), the perception of the perpetrator by the jury (e.g., white or black, mentally retarded or smart, and so on) and a whole host of other factors that makes the process fundamentally, irrevocably flawed, without recourse or ability to improve or repair.

    This is the State killing it’s citizens, and the manner in which the sentence is chosen, much more so than the method by which it is done. I suppose we can all rest easy with the thought that Lockett no longer walks the earth, but are we so easy with the indisputable fact that Jones went before him?

    • Churchlady320

      I have no desire to be part of a society that is as cruel as the perp. That said, your observation about Jones goes to the heart of the issue. The slavering desire by too many law enforcement people to arrest and convict someone – anyone – has led to the release of 144 people shown innocent but consigned to death row. That means there are other Cameron Todd Joneses in our world. Criminals facing death don’t always have DNA evidence to release them when they have been wrongly convicted. So we rush to judgment, want to hasten the ruse to execution (doing away with all those pesky appeals) so that we can rid ourselves of people who have both done awful things AND whom we THINK have done them.

      These exonerations don’t reflect the greater number also exonerated who were serving life or lesser sentences. As for Death Row inmates, the data show that one in 25 today is probably innocent.

      If we cannot trust the system to find the actual perpetrators, then we cannot hand over their lives to be eliminated. There is nothing that can excuse the execution of an innocent person ever. That is why the death penalty needs to end.

      • Tom Blue

        Thank you for your comment, Churchlady. I agree with you in full.

        I just wanted to observe, however, that even if we did have a magic ball such that no innocent person was ever convicted of a crime in a capitol case, it is also the decision about whether a case will be tried as a capitol crime that is fundamentally flawed.

        If a white kid and a black kid commit the exact same crime, it is the prosecutor’s discretion as to whether to seek the death penalty. Few would plausibly argue that the black kid would be far, far more likely to face the death penalty than the white kid, who would be offered a better plea deal or would be less likely to even face the death penalty.

        My argument is that even in cases where the perpetrator is guilty, the process by which the death penalty is imposed is fundamentally, irreparably flawed. There is no possibility, given the state of the justice system today, that the irrevocable penalty can be justly and equitably applied.

  • Draxiar

    The death penalty is a logic vs emotion debate that many folks (myself included) struggle with. I reject the death penalty as a means of justice but I understand why people would support it. I don’t agree with their argument for supporting it…but I understand their perspective.

    What this man did to this girl is one of the sickest things I’ve ever read. I simultaneously think of my daughter and that girl and how she would have felt going through that. The confusion, terror, despair…I can only imagine. My base instinct would be to do unto him as he has done to her. On the surface that seems like justice. It’s not.

    Inflicting that sort of punishment will not make anyone in the situation who matters feel better. Instead I’d try with all of my will to forgive the man (and let him spend his days in prison). I’d try. Being that forgiveness is the toughest thing someone can ever give anyone I may not succeed. I’d try though.

    The death penalty is not the nobler route and that net may, and probably has, caught more than a few innocent people. If one innocent person dies because of flaws in the system then that is a price too high. Yet I understand why people would want the guilty person dead and I shed no tears for them if they die.

    • Churchlady320

      I can understand any family member wanting to rip the perpetrator’s guts out and strangle him with them. That is why we don’t let families and friends be judge, jury, executioner. What I never understand is the perfect stranger who makes death and suffering a goal for criminal ‘justice’. What’s motivating them? I have lost friends to murder, so this is not academic to me. But there’s no benefit to me from their deaths at all. So why does this fascinate and compel people who have NO ties to the issue at all? I just do not understand.

  • Danann13

    Chock it up for karma.
    Let the dopers out of jail to make room for lifetime incarceration these dangerous murderers

  • aceshigh

    Most right-wingers are sadists (as evidenced by the twisted, sick, and mindless cheering over Sarah Palin’s “waterboarding = baptism” tirade) and actually think that was happened to Lockett is a FEATURE, not a bug, of the death penalty.

    In fact, their only gripes with what Lockett went through are:

    - that it wasn’t harsh ENOUGH, and
    - that they weren’t able to watch it live themselves.

    My heart aches for Stephanie Nieman and her family and, on a primal level, I don’t feel bad for what Lockett endured and I’m not sorry he’s dead, but no modern state can continue to do what America does with respect to the death penalty.

  • bbiemeret

    The death penalty is an oxymoron. The is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance at play when the legal penalty for killing is to be killed. The motives may be different, but the action is the same. The convict, the judge, and the executioner, all of them murderers.

    If it was my friend or family member, would I want the perp to die? You’re goddamn right I would. I’d likely want to do it myself, bare-handed if possible. But that doesn’t change the fact that it would make me a murderer as well, and it doesn’t make it right. That would be something I’d have to try to learn to live with if I could. But that isn’t justice, it’s vengeance. Violence begets violence, and it consumes all those who commit it.

    I’m no pacifist, and I have committed plenty of violence in my time. But always as a last resort, and never without guilt gnawing at my conscience. How can one sentence another to die, and carry then out that sentence, without it eating away at them? How can one do this over and over again, and not be haunted by it. I have no evidence, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of individuals involved in administering the death penalty drink heavily, or “self-medicate” in some fashion or another.

    Justice is supposed to be about righting wrongs, and preventing them from reoccurring in the future. Murder, by it’s definition, cannot be righted. Executing the killer will not revive the victim. And there are other methods to prevent recurrence. A lifetime bid in Pelican Bay, or similar facility, would handle that just fine. How is 23 hours a day of solitary confinement in an 8 X 10 cell for the rest of one’s life not a suitable consequence for ending another’s? Having nothing to do everyday but sit and thing about what was done. Like water over stone, it eats away until it eventually gives way. Death is not always the worst thing imaginable, just ask a suicide victim. Sometimes it’s the easy way out.

  • Robert Scalzi

    Although these tools that commited this heinous act are the poster boys for the pro death penalty crowd I must say Sorry the Death penalty is the most disgusting inhumane thing a state can carry out. It is estimated that 1 in 25 who have been executed and currently sit on death row were and are innocent of the crime they are accused of. Although there are many worthy candidates for death the STATE should stay the hell out of teh death game. It is too FINAL. How many innocent people are going to be executed to satisfy the revenge urge of the victims families and zealots in the state prosecutors office ?? One is too many in my book and that number was passed long ago.

    • Tom Ward

      I have to seriously question your use of the results of that study as fact. Look at this graph: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/images/exoyear.png

      If their study is based on the years before DNA profiling was in widespread use in trials then it’s likely wildly inaccurate and pretty biased.

      • Robert Scalzi

        your one chart does not refute my argument one bit .. Try again.

        • Tom Ward

          Not exactly trying to refute you, if it is true that 1 in 25 death row inmates are innocent then I would agree 100% with your argument. I just have a very hard time believing that 1 in 25 people currently on death row are innocent of the crime(s) that put them there, regardless of what the results from the study you quoted says.

      • Churchlady320

        Material evidence from the scene is kept, and DNA has been used on that to show these men are innocent. So what IS your point? In a much larger body of exonerations, other evidence and witness recanting of testimony have been brought to bear though mostly not on death row cases. The numbers of people freed when a jury thought them absolutely guilty reveals a huge flaw in our judicial system. THAT ought to concern us all.

      • xplode

        I love the skewed scaling of the graph there.. 4 year, 6 year, 1 year..

        • Tom Ward

          Good point, but all I was using the graph for was to show that the number of exonerations has dropped recently.

  • CitizenJ

    Bob, one of the reasons I enjoy your writing is because you tend to base your conclusions on objective evidence (given, of course, the values that underline your views of what society should be like). Hence my disappointment with your ambivalence about the death penalty. There are generally three types of murderers: 1) sociopaths that understand what they are doing is wrong and just don’t care, 2) mentally ill people who truly don’t understand what they are doing, and 3) people who kill under an extreme emotional state (e.g. catching their spouse in bed cheating, avenging a child’s death, etc). The death penalty serves no purpose for any of these people. Sociopaths don’t care. Mentally ill people don’t understand the consequences. And the “emotional”, rage-types don’t stop to consider the consequences in the heat of the moment.

    None of that is an excuse for these people to commit a murder. However, if the death penalty deters nobody from killing (which you acknowledge), then the only other reason for it is the feeling of righteous justice we humans get from knowing we got an eye for an eye. Since you are human (you are…..right? I think so. Must be), obviously no one can fault you for having that feeling. But it is not logical. Putting people in prison for life accomplishes the goal of making sure killers don’t kill again. Killing people also is sufficient, but it comes with the price of setting a terrible moral example for the rest of the world.

    Clearly, the United States is no longer the moral compass of the world (if it ever truly was), but we should at least hold ourselves to some standard that moves us away from the logic of our conservative bretheren who believe justice and morality are directly proportional to our ability to physically impose them.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Thanks for the comment, but for what it’s worth, I wrote: “But that is in no way an endorsement of how it occurred or the system as it currently exists.”

      • CitizenJ

        I didn’t mean to suggest you were in favor of the policy. I was just commenting on your ambivalence toward the policy, which you noted both in the title and body of the piece.

        On second reading though, I actually don’t see that you are ambivalent about the policy at all. I interpreted what you called your ambivalence as seeing both positive and negative characteristics in the policy. Really though, all you really said is that you are “satisfied that Lockett is gone.” Me too. The guy gets no sympathy from me. But not feeling bad about his being gone isn’t really a comment on the positive aspects of the death penalty (in fact, you call for the policy to “be shelved”). It’s simply an emotional response to the fact that the guy is no longer with us.

        I guess my point above still stands on its own: the death penalty serves no positive objective purpose if the ultimate goal is to prevent potential murderers from committing those murders. Since that is the case, the only use of the death penalty is to make us feel better, which is a pretty bad reason for doing something with such serious ramifications. I know your position on this is probably more nuanced than you can fit into a few hundred words, but I don’t think you disagree with me, and I don’t actually think you’re all that ambivalent about it after all. Apologies if I imposed an incorrect view on your piece.

        • Churchlady320

          Lots of people feel that the heinous nature of the deeds calls out for something really powerful as justice for the victims. Bob’s honesty is about knowing revenge is not the point and yet feeling some crimes are too hideous to result in the perp getting to live however confined. That is completely understandable especially among victims’ families and friends. He is not suggesting his feelings are a reason to drive this debate.

          • CitizenJ

            But feelings are exactly what drive this debate, especially if we concede the point that the death penalty serves no practical purpose as a crime deterrent. The point is to keep the goal in mind and overcome those feelings that do not contribute anything to accomplishing the goal. I’m not dismissing the feelings someone has when they lose a loved one like this, but state-sanctioned killing for revenge gets us literally nowhere, regardless of how it makes us feel.

          • Stuven Farlow

            do you really think it is more humane to lock someone up the rest of there life then to just kill them?
            Why is it someone else’s burden to feed,clothe, house, and guard such a violent person? what if they kill a prison guard? or someone like you suggests in 10yrs they are better and should freed?(only to kill yet again).
            it is not about revenge it is about removing someone completely, so they can never kill or harm anyone ever again.

            every other great culture and civilization in history has practiced execution for heinous crimes. why do you think you know better?
            i believe it is natural and Darwinist to remove people like this from the gene pool

        • James Johnson

          So what if the death penalty doesn’t prevent potential murderers. Some crimes, such as this, are so heinous that it simply is the only “logical” response. Thanks Bob for pointing out exactly why this man was executed. Most media outlets ignore it completely. It’s interesting also to see the death penalty foes cringe at such gory details, as if how or what the murderer did is irrelevant. It is relevant and it must be taken into account when meeting out punishment. In society if a pit bull attacks a child we put that pit bull down. I see no difference in this case.

          • CitizenJ

            Really? You see no difference between a dog and a human? I think I’ve read something like that somewhere in history books before…

            And I don’t recall cringing at the gory details, I simply don’t see the point in continuing the cycle of violence. It doesn’t bring justice, it probably doesn’t really bring closure since nothing can bring a murder victim back. It is simply revenge for the sake of revenge. If that’s what you believe the point of the death penalty is, that’s fine. I just happen to think it’s a poor way to run a society. I guess we can agree to disagree.

          • JJ Knight

            Christopher Foxx and CitizenJ – I’d like to pose a question to you. Let’s say this man that was just put to death killed 1 child and then after a few years was released. Then he killed another child. Then after a few years he was released and he killed another two or three children. Let’s say this cycle repeated itself until he had killed say a dozen children.

            I’m curious, how many children would need to be slaughtered before you said, hey this fox is killing our hens? We must do something about this? Maybe we should band together and kill this fox so our children will stop being killed? It’s not really a matter of emotion. It’s a matter of survival. We are tapping into our survival instinct as a society where we protect each other so that our CHILDREN can live on. If you can’t see this then you are blind to reality.

          • CitizenJ

            Ah, the “children” card. And in all caps no less. You seem fond of equating animals to humans for some reason, so to make it simple I’d say you should just stop letting the fox out of the cage.

          • Christopher Foxx

            JJ Knight: “So what if the death penalty doesn’t prevent potential murderers. Some crimes, such as this, are so heinous that it simply is the only “logical” response.

            In your first sentence there you essentially acknowledge that the only reason for the death penalty is revenge. (If it isn’t to make certain the criminal never re-offends, what other purpose is there?)

            And revenge is never the “logical” response. On the contrary it is as emotional response as you can get. You’re trying to claim it’s logical to hide that what really drives your support for it is payback.

      • Ellen Kuhlmann

        Bob, have to agree with CitizenJ, you may not have meant to convey that you are pro-Death penalty, but to me ambivalence means you’re not against it either. So you’re kinda for it, or kinda not, yes?

  • Sean Richardson

    “So the guilt is obviously shared among many, though many drug companies have discontinued sodium thiopental for humanitarian reasons.”

    I’m sure some of them have, but for the most part, they aren’t making the drug because one of the components has to be imported from Europe. And the E.U. made it illegal to export said components if the exporter had reason to believe they would be used to execute prisoners (among other limitations).

  • Gunnut2600

    What a person did to receive the death penalty and the means in which they are executed are two separate things. You open up with what he was found guilty of because it makes it easier to excuse what the state of Oklahoma did.

    Similar to how you fail to mention his race or how if one is a minority, they will get the death penalty at a MUCH higher rate than if they are white. These things are not comfortable to talk about so we try to frame the conversation to make it easier. Everyone, including myself, does this.

    The whole reason this is now happening is because of globalization. If say a couple of states were using cars to smash into convicts as a form of execution, automobile manufacturers would flip their shit and pull their vehicles. Same is true with chemical manufacturers who don’t want to lose the European market because the US is dedicate to be in the tiny circle of nations that executes its own citizens.

    Eventually it will get out exactly what chemicals were used. The companies that make those chemicals will sue (to protect their brand). Eventually the whole process will get more and more barbaric until we just get to the point that we either grow up as human beings or we debase ourselves further and go back to the days of breaking convicts on the wheel.