The Washington Post headlined it, “No Humane Way to Kill,” under a photograph of the prison death chamber in Huntsville, Texas.
Apparently, the Post was unable to obtain a photograph of Oklahoma’s execution facility, of which Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson wrote the following about Clayton Lockett:
“Lockett, a convicted murderer, spent 43 minutes in apparent agony Tuesday night as the state of Oklahoma tried to execute him by injecting an untested cocktail of drugs. Instead of quickly losing consciousness, he writhed in obvious distress and attempted to speak. Witnesses described what they saw as horrific.
“Prison authorities halted the procedure – they were going to revive Lockett so they could kill him at a later date, presumably in a more aesthetically pleasing manner – but the condemned man suffered a heart attack and died.”
That was almost as horrendous as what Clayton Lockett was found guilty of having done: Raping, brutalizing and murdering a 19-year-old woman – and burying her alive.
Should the state of Oklahoma have attempted to show how much it opposes such killing in cold blood – by doing exactly that in ceremoniously poisoning Lockett to death?
Robinson also writes: “Put simply, when we murder we become murderers.
“Perhaps the most powerful argument against the death penalty is that it is irreversible. Sometimes, judges and juries make honest mistakes and innocent people may be condemned to death.”
Reported the Post in a separate story: “Austin Sarat, an Amherst University professor who wrote a book about the history of botched executions in America, said the Oklahoma problem is another stone on the scales tipping way against capital punishment. ‘There are so many doubts out there already about the death penalty. This just adds to the question of do we really need to do this?’”
As a former White House correspondent who covered the first Obama term, I welcome the opportunity to commend the president’s spokesman, Jay Carney, for the following statement:
“We have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely – and I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.”
On May 1, the Post reported:
“Although executions are continuing in the United States, their numbers have dropped significantly in recent years. More states have recently banned the death penalty, and although a majority of Americans still support it, the proportion who do is dropping, polls show.
“In the spring of 2010, the American Board of Anesthesiologists decided to revoke the certification of any member who participated in a lethal injection, a move that could prevent an anesthesiologist from working in most hospitals. ‘We are healers, not executioners,’ a group official said at the time. The American Medical Association long has said that participating in executions violates a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath.”
As a former prison chaplain’s theological seminary associate at California’s San Quentin State Prison, I shall never, ever forget the one execution I witnessed.
I was standing just two feet away from the strapped-in victim on the other side of that thick glass. While he was manacled to the chair at his wrists, he was able, as he looked at me, to wave his hand just before he deeply inhaled the lethal gas.
I suspected that this was because he was my fellow Episcopalian and aware of my campaigning against the death penalty.
I rejoice that Maryland has just recently become the 18th state to abolish the death penalty – with New Hampshire losing a similar abolition attempt by just one vote.
The Death Penalty Information Center reports that 144 people have been exonerated since 1976.
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