The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Executioner's blues

The state of Oklahoma, where the waving wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain, executed Clayton Lockett, an alleged human being, two weeks ago, an execution the press now almost universally describes as botched. I am not sure I can agree with that characterization. The object of the exercise was to cause Mr. Lockett’s death and now he is dead, albeit in a manner inconsistent with the way these things usually go. Execution by lethal injection begins with the condemned man receiving a large dose of a powerful sedative and then, when he is in a drug-induced sleep, the executioner administers a drug that will stop his heart. This is allegedly a more humane method of execution than hanging, poison gas, electrocution, or firing squad, which are the methods in use in those states that still permit capital punishment and do not use lethal injection.  What happened to Mr. Lockett is that the prison authorities used a new cocktail of lethal drugs, none of which, it appears, was as lethal as the drugs in the old cocktail of lethal drugs. Instead of falling asleep and then dying, Mr. Lockett remained awake and groaning, sometimes thrashing about, sometimes talking to people in the execution chamber, and in a variety of other ways being inconveniently not dead when he should have been. The execution having ground to a halt, our Sooner Sansons manqués puzzled about what to do next when Mr. Lockett saved the day for them by dying of a massive heart attack, a result the Oklahoma justice system could have achieved at considerably less cost to the taxpayers by simply putting Mr. Lockett on a diet high in fat and cholesterol and encouraging him to smoke as many cigarettes as he liked. Not wishing to appear too dumb for words, a fear you’d think they would have gotten over by then, the state of Oklahoma canceled the execution of Charles Warner, another alleged human being, until they could figure out what went wrong with Mr. Lockett’s execution.

Since Mr. Lockett shuffled off this mortal coil in so indecorous a manner, certain segments of the press have been nearly hysterical in their denunciations of the state’s handling of the execution and of the death penalty itself.  I find myself agreeing with their criticisms of how Mr. Lockett died; if a state is going to execute criminals then by all means let us find a way that satisfies the needs of justice and disposes of the wretch in as painless a manner as possible; and I find myself totally disagreeing with their conclusions about the death penalty as a whole. I have never been comfortable with the death penalty; we live in an age in which prosecutors already have way too much power in the criminal justice system and I cannot avoid the feeling that for many a prosecutor a high profile murder case ending in an execution is just the ticket for them to achieve higher office and the interests of justice be damned. All of this is on one side of the scale, and on the other stands Mr. Lockett, who was a walking, talking, living, breathing advertisement for the correctness of the death penalty. Mr. Lockett kidnapped three people; he beat one man senseless, anally, orally, and vaginally raped one young woman, and then murdered the young woman’s friend, nineteen-year old Stephanie Neiman. Mr. Lockett shot Ms. Neiman twice and when that was not enough to kill her, he had his accomplices dig a grave and bury her alive in it, all the while ignoring her screams for help and pleas for mercy. Mr. Lockett admitted to the crime and the video of his confession is one of the most callous and brutal things you will ever see in your life.  A jury convicted Mr. Lockett and he spent fifteen years on Oklahoma’s death row as he and his lawyers explored every legal avenue available to get his sentence reduced. So color me unimpressed with the multiple stories about Mr. Lockett’s botched execution—the bastard got what was coming to him. I remember reading once about someone asking Albert Pierrepoint, for many years Great Britain’s official hangman, about why it was that the death penalty never seemed truly satisfactory, given the enormity of the crimes that the condemned had committed. Mr. Pierrepoint replied that there were no extras with a death sentence, there was no making the condemned man suffer for what he had done. A death sentence meant that the man died; nothing more and nothing less. In Mr. Lockett’s case, the incompetence of the Oklahoma prison authorities meant that, in this case at least, the condemned man felt some of the fear and terror he had visited on his victim. Is that constitutional? Probably not, but in this case I’m not sure I care one way or the other.  The nature of Mr. Lockett’s crime precludes the possibility of any sympathy from me.   May he rot in hell.

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  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger Dick Stanley said…

    Agreed. But not from the White House where President Buttercup declared Lockett to be another prospective-son-I-never-had. You'd think Treyvon, the drug-dealing, jewelry-stealing punk would have been enough. Guess the Worm wanted a murderer all along.


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