The lawyer for Clayton Lockett said the Oklahoma murderer's botched execution Tuesday night, which lasted about 40 minutes and ended when the condemned died of a heart attack, left him horrified.
"He was definitely writhing around. His whole upper body was lifting off the table," the attorney was quoted as saying about his client in an article by The Times' Molly Hennessy-Fiske. "What we saw was somebody coming back to consciousness."
The reaction so far by readers who have sent us letter? Big deal -- the man who shot and buried his victim alive 15 years ago had it coming.
None of the several readers who have written in on Lockett's execution express any concern that he apparently felt serious pain before dying in a way that Oklahoma officials hadn't anticipated. Several point out that Lockett's victim suffered a far more painful, excruciating death than the man who killed her; one even said he wished more executions would be similarly "botched." A few offered alternatives to lethal injection.
Unswayed as the capital punishment supporters are by those who point to the botched execution as an egregious example of unconstitutional cruelty, the worry that a condemned inmate might suffer extreme pain isn't primarily what drives those who oppose the death penalty. Although the focus of Lockett's case has been on how much pain he endured before dying, death penalty opponents (such as myself, for what it's worth) are less concerned about the differences in barbarism between executions than by the fact that a government execution of anyone -- even a brutal murderer -- is an immoral, barbaric act, no matter how you do it.
It isn't an acceptable compromise, for example, to execute someone on the lethal injection gurney in lieu of the more gruesome electric chair. That Lockett's death didn't go according to plan doesn't make capital punishment immoral; it makes an already unacceptable practice even less acceptable.
Similarly, the death penalty supporters who write letters to us are mostly unconcerned about any pain suffered by condemned murderers, including Lockett (although their lack of concern allows for more suffering). Here are some of their letters.
Oak Park resident David Pohlod delivers a spirited defense of capital punishment and reminds us to think of the victims:
Invariably, the cries and teeth-gnashing for ending the death penalty will now commence with Lockett's justified execution. Opponents' claims of unfairness betray their gross inability to make sound arguments on this most important and sensitive subject.
The death penalty is a serious matter, to be discussed by only the most serious and sober adults. Death penalty abolitionists bring only a poorly developed, juvenile, emotional sense of justice. They really don't deserve a place at the table.
I note with some interest that in the article that ran in the paper, The Times saw fit to describe Lockett's crime in one short sentence. His victim, Stephanie Nieman, was abducted, shot and then buried alive. She deserved at least a whole paragraph.
Kenneth L. Zimmerman of Huntington Beach isn't bothered by "botched" executions:
I am glad that the execution of Lockett was botched and prolonged and that he suffered cruel and unusual punishment. You might say that this is justice for the pain, suffering and terror he inflicted on his 19-year-old victim.
I only wish more executions were botched in this way.
Burbank resident Steve Carey takes a swipe at a prominent death penalty critic:
Indeed, the only "terrible suffering" I endured regarding Lockett's extended execution in Oklahoma was in regard to reading part of Chemerinsky's prepared statement in The Times.
Don Gately of Valencia suggests adopting an older execution method:
As evidenced in Oklahoma, lethal injections aren't always painless, so why not firing squads? Immediate, inexpensive, totally effective and completely painless.