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Botched Oklahoma Execution Highlights Barbarity of Capital Punishment

4/30/14

In the days and weeks leading up to last night's horrifying execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, there was much debate about the validity of the call for transparency in execution procedures.  Some contended that allowing Oklahoma to rely on a new and experimental drug protocol, which relied on drugs whose source the State refused to disclose, in a dosage that had never before been used on a human being, reeked of human experimentation and ran the very real risk of torture. Others concluded that as long as an unquestionably guilty murderer was put to death, these last minute questions simply sought to delay - or avoid altogether - the imposition of an appropriate punishment.

We can only hope that Mr. Lockett's tortured and "botched" execution puts an end to this absurd debate.

A journalist from The Oklahoman who was present during the execution reported that Mr. Lockett "grimaced and tensed his body several times over a three-minute period before the execution was shielded from the press. After being declared unconscious 10 minutes into the process, Lockett spoke at three separate moments. The first two were inaudible but the third time he spoke, Lockett said the word 'man.'" A prison official said, "Something's wrong." 

Ultimately, it appears that Mr. Lockett died of heart failure. 

Something is wrong indeed. This is not justice.

For NAACP LDF, last night's tragedy simply serves as another stark reminder of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s prescient warning:  "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.  ... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that."

At the very least, there must be a fair and independent investigation and autopsy to determine what, exactly, went so terribly wrong with the execution of Clayton Lockett. 

At best, Mr. Lockett's grotesque execution will expose the fallacy of the effort to shroud state-sanctioned homicide in a veil of secrecy and bring our country one step closer to accepting the fact that the death penalty should be abolished.