Breaking: The Execution Failed (or did it?)

Oklahoma was to execute Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner last night. Lockett went first. Things didn’t quite go as planned for Lockett, as reflected in this series of twits (to read from the bottom up) posted by Gideon.


The way it’s supposed to work is that a sedative is introduced to render the prisoner unconscious, and then drugs are used to end his life. Lockett didn’t comply.

Jeff Gamso writes:

Of course now, with things absolutely having gone south, a clear mess.  Grotesque.  They closed the curtain.  Witnesses only get to witness what the state wants them to see, after all.  But it was too late. They’d seen.  They’d heard.  They knew the bullshit.

From CNN.

Yet the office of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement indicating “execution officials said Lockett remained unconscious after the lethal injection drugs were administered.”

Anyway, they threw in the towel.  Called off the effort to kill Lockett tonight.

Lockett ended up dying of a heart attack anyway. Warner got a reprieve until the folks in Oklahoma figure out why their death protocol is not okay.

It’s not that Lockett or Warner are good guys, or sympathetic defendants. They’re not. But that’s not the point.  As Gamso, ironically, wrote the day before:

 [There was] no evidence that [fill in the blank] experienced any pain, distress or anxiety.

How do they know?  Did they ask him?

Hey, Den.  You know when we killed you?  Did it hurt?

No answer?  Guess not.

This time, they could have asked, because Lockett didn’t die the way he was supposed to. But they didn’t have to ask. They already knew the answer.

As Turley notes,

this incident comes a day after the release of a new report showing over four percent of death row inmates are likely innocent. The calculation of one in 25 death row being innocent in the study contradicts the earlier statistical data offered by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in a concurring opinion in 2007 when he said that the error rate was 0.027 percent “or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent.”

Are you good with this?  Executions aren’t some theoretical, abstract occurrence, reduced to bloodless, painless, medical perfection, of only the guilty, the “worst of the worst.”  They’re real, and what happened to Lockett was real, just as the killing of Todd Cameron Willingham was real.

Jeff concludes:

We don’t know what we’re doing.  We can’t do it right.  And it seems we don’t give a rat’s ass.

Do you?


25 thoughts on “Breaking: The Execution Failed (or did it?)

  1. Turk

    Protocol should be:
    Firing squad
    In public
    On courthouse steps

    Who, after all, would be opposed? Pro-death folks should argue it helps deterrence. Anti forces should be delighted that the state’s true machinery of death will be brought home to those that voted for it.

      1. Turk

        You forgot “broadcast on primetime television,” when the children are still awake to watch.

        I wrote “public,” didn’t I?

    1. Lurker

      If you would want to go this way, then doing it in the Chinese manner would be the best way: have the prosecutor fire the “surety” shot at the end of execution.

      The machinery of death is made to distance everyone involved from the actual killing of human being. No single individual is fully responsible. If you think that there are people who “need killing”, then that responsibility should be born by those who make the decision: the firing squad should consist of the jury.

      1. Frank Ney

        This is why I believe in the death penalty only at the time and scene of the crime, preferably at the hands of the intended victim (thank you, L. Neil Smith). In other words, death as a side effect of legitimate self defense. Government has a way of mucking things up too much when the only people who have a chance of knowing what really happened are the ones who were actually there.

  2. Bruce Coulson

    Given the popularity of public hangings in a prior era, and reality TV today, are you sure this would be a deterrent? It might spur calls for more contestants.

    Although it could be a ratings boon for public television…

  3. John Barleycorn

    If you would like a little extra circular snap shot go read the comment sections at the many widely circulated sources who have been reporting on this incident.

    The number of people expressing their pleasure with the prolonged outcome is unnerving.

    BTW; America Gladiators will be running its regularly scheduled programing tonight at nine and as usual Captain O’s Company folks as well as the usual retired and active members of The Wink Factory will be headlining the Sunday news programs.

    1. SHG Post author

      We anticipate this will bring out the extremists, for whom sanity is a distant memory, if a memory at all. But what about normal people? Wait, why am I asking you?

      1. John Barleycorn

        The “devices” of sanity have very little patience for the mining. The contradictions sink like lead.

        Your alchemy esteemed one is near.

        Magic if not for scars.

        Why hold on to it?

        Yes that reason is obvious.

  4. SPO

    The real tragedy is that a rapist-murderer of an 11-month old baby gets a few more weeks on the planet. Looking at this situation logically–there are really three issues with LI in the US today:

    1) Do the drugs on paper get the job done? Well, the answer to that is yes. We know to a medical certainty that X amount of the sedative is going to cause unconsciousness then death.

    2) Do the compounding facilities get the job done? Well, Texas tests the drugs it receives. Don’t know about Oklahoma, but it’s highly likely that the pharmacy produces good drugs.

    3) The big jab–can the state get the needle in right?

    The first two issues really have nothing to do with what happened in Oklahoma. Rather, it appears that the insertion just didn’t work. Well, boo hoo. When you shoot someone and order them to be buried alive, then you run the risk that, despite the efforts of the state, your execution hurts a little.

    The warden should have had the balls to carry out the second one. Maybe the second guy would have felt the same fear the 11 month old baby was feeling.

    Of course, I don’t think that the state should try to make the condemned suffer. I just don’t lose any sleep over it–other than that caused by concern that justice won’t be done for the 11 month old baby.

    Speaking of precision. Of course, Obama had to yap about this. He said this execution wasn’t humane. That connotes that there was some sort of bad mens rea on the part of the state of Oklahoma. (Note: we don’t talk about someone suffering as a result of a car accident as inhumane.)

    1. SHG Post author

      The distinctions are pretty easy to see. One is a criminal. The other is the state. One is bad. The other is not supposed to be. The measure of the state is not the criminal. Not too hard to see for some people. Impossible for others.

      It appears the problem wasn’t that the physician administering the drugs missed the vein, but that they used an untested combination of drugs. They took a chance and lost. Yet again, when you take a contrary position and get all the facts wrong, don’t expect your view to be well received.

      And car accidents are accidental, not intentional and performed deliberately by the state, so the suffering of the victim isn’t something the state could prevent by choosing not to cause a car accident. But hey, the ability to recognize basic concepts is what distinguishes intelligent people from simpletons. This is one of the reasons your contributions aren’t as interesting as you think they are. Disagreement isn’t a problem, but stupid disagreement is still stupid.

      1. SPO

        “It appears the problem wasn’t that the physician administering the drugs missed the vein, but that they used an untested combination of drugs.”

        Really? The clinical effects of the sedative, properly introduced, are extremely well-known. (Note: it doesn’t appear that the other two were even used.) I gotta give you some credit–it’s difficult to do encapsulate so much misinformation in one sentence.

        So: (a) it wasn’t a combination of drugs that caused this and (b) untested is a silly description because guess what, we know what midazolam does in those doses.

        1. SHG Post author

          I go by whatever information is available, because I wasn’t there:

          The revelation came as Oklahoma’s governor called for an investigation into the attempted execution that, according to some witnesses, left Lockett writhing in pain after a vein collapsed. A new and previously unused drug combination was reportedly used in the attempted execution.

          “The doctor checked the IV and reported the blood vein had collapsed, and the drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both,” according to the timeline.

          You, on the other hand, do not, which is why you have no credibility.

            1. SPO

              Apparently, a charge of sophistry caused some “butthurt.” Bottom line—we know, clinically, what the midazolam does. It knocks the guy out and kills him. Therefore, the idea that the combination was “untested” really doesn’t add to the discussion. I suspect you know this.

            2. SHG Post author

              Just a smile. Another word you apparently struggle with, sophistry. You’ve had your say, and now you’re just wasting my bandwidth, and nobody cares but you.

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  6. Brett Middleton

    I fear Mr. Gamso is correct when he says that we can’t do it right. Even when we most desperately want to euthanize humanely — when we need to put down a beloved pet that is suffering incurably — it does not always go right. Believe me, the memories of that can haunt you. And let’s not think about what can and does happen in a slaughterhouse where we try to put humane killing on a production-line basis without any hatred or ill-will towards the subjects. If we can’t guarantee a humane outcome when we really care, there would seem to be little chance that we’ll ever get it right for humans that we have written off as scum.

    1. SHG Post author

      No reason to “fear” Gamso. Sure, he looks mean, but he’s just a big ol’ teddy bear.

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