Tag Archives: Clayton Lockett

Let the debate begin!

Amid the rulings issued in late June, including a ruling that affirmed marriage without regard to sexual orientation and a ruling supporting the Affordable Care Act, came a decision that the “use of midazolam as part of lethal injection protocols is constitutional.”

The ruling focused, not on the death penalty itself, but on the means of administrating the death penalty. As Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said:

“Today, the Supreme Court ruled that using a cocktail of illegal drugs, which has been proven to cause torture in the prisoners to whom it’s been administered, as a form of execution, is not ‘cruel or unusual’ punishment.”

A sign of hope came from the dissent of Justice Stephen Breyer in which he questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty and called for a renewed legal debate on the matter.

Such a debate is needed.

Reports of recent executions describe cruel and unusual circumstances.  Writing in Salon, Matthew Rosza describes three executions:

Dennis McGuire of Ohio, who took nearly 25 minutes to die after choking and struggling throughout the procedure; Clayton Lockett of Oklahoma, whose execution was halted 20 minutes into the procedure due to an issue with his vein, began writhing on the gurney, and took 43 minutes in total to die; and Joseph Wood of Arizona, who gasped and snorted for nearly two hours before his lethal injection finally ended his life.

Not only does the death penalty appear to fit the cruel and unusual criteria of the Constitution, practical concerns abound. It does not make us safer. It lowers us to the behavior of criminals. It makes executioners of us all. It runs the risk of executing an innocent person. And racial and class bias riddle the use of the sentence.

The time has come to end the practice of the death penalty. Let the debate proposed by Justice Breyer begin!

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

Call Oklahoma to stop executions

Clayton Lockett died on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. He died in a botched execution by the State of Oklahoma.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty reports that “witnesses say he writhed and twitched in agony throughout the execution.” A second execution scheduled for later that evening, has been postponed for fourteen days.

Lockett was sentenced to death for the murder of Stephanie Neiman. The incident that lead to her death was exceptionally brutal. It involved sexual assault and assault on Neiman and on Summer Bradshaw and Bobby Lee Bornt, according to a report in the Washington Post. While Neiman’s murder carried the death penalty, Lockett was convicted of a number of crimes committed that night.

There can be no justification, no excuses, no rationales for these actions, these crimes.

I grieve for Stephanie, Summer, Bobby Lee, and those who loved and love them. The violence which ended Stephanie’s live and violated Summer and Bobby Lee appalls me.

But I also grieve for Lockett. And his death appalls me even as his actions fill me with revulsion.

However, I believe, I do believe, I still believe, that dealing death for death is never the answer. It inappropriately raises us to the level of God as we decide who should live and who should die. And at the same time, it debases and degrades us to the level of those who resort to violence and destruction and death-dealing.

I opt for living in the tension. For seeking to find ways to protect society from those who kill without killing them. And for doing the hard, at times it seems futile, impossible, work of breaking the hold of anger, hate and violence on human hearts and preventing violence. It won’t come easy. But it is my choice.

The National Coalition Against the Death Penalty has a petition calling the leaders of Oklahoma to “halt all executions until an independent third-party can carry out an investigation with full transparency.”

I will sign because I believe an investigation is crucial both to understand what happened and why and to abolish the death penalty in Oklahoma and across the United States.

I will sign. I hope you do too.

See you along the Trail





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Filed under Capital Punishment, Death Penalty