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Failed Execution in Oklahoma

The execution of Clayton Lockett's well-deserved and long-overdue punishment for the murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Newman went badly yesterday.  According to this account from KFOR,

The Director Of Prisons comes back into the room and tells the eyewitnesses that there has been a vein failure. He says, "The chemical did not make it into the vein of the prisoner.  Under my authority, we are issuing a stay of execution."

Lockett died shortly afterward of a heart attack.

Death penalty opponents are predictably calling for a "moratorium," i.e., further delaying justice in cases where it is already very long overdue.  As this statement from Stephanie's parents indicates, that would be a gross injustice to the victims.

As I have noted several times on this blog, lethal injection was a mistake from the beginning.  We should have kept the gas chamber and merely used a different gas.  Carbon monoxide, for example, is painless.

We have lethal injection for the time being, though, and we should make it effective.  Congress should act promptly to lift the restrictions on importation of the needed drugs and to outlaw manufacturers' restrictions on resale of them.

Lest we forget what this is really about, Ziva Branstetter had this article April 20 in the Tulsa World (free registration required), headlined "Death row inmate killed teen because she wouldn't back down."

Neiman was dropping off a friend at a Perry residence on June 3, 1999, the same evening Clayton Lockett and two accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery there. Neiman fought Lockett when he tried to take the keys to her truck.
The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman didn't back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police.
The men had also beaten and kidnapped Neiman's friend along with Bobby Bornt, who lived in the residence, and Bornt's 9-month-old baby.

"Right is right and wrong is wrong. Maybe that's what Clayton was so scared of, because Stephanie did stand up for her rights," her parents later wrote to jurors in an impact statement. "She did not blink an eye at him. We raised her to work hard for what she got."

Steve and Susie Neiman asked jurors to give Lockett the death penalty for taking the life of their only child, who had graduated from Perry High School two weeks before her death.

Tuesday, 15 years later, the state plans to carry out that penalty.

Lockett later told police "he decided to kill Stephanie because she would not agree to keep quiet," court records state.

Neiman was forced to watch as Lockett's accomplice, Shawn Mathis, spent 20 minutes digging a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road. Her friends saw Neiman standing in the ditch and heard a single shot.

Lockett returned to the truck because the gun had jammed. He later said he could hear Neiman pleading, "Oh God, please, please" as he fixed the shotgun.

The men could be heard "laughing about how tough Stephanie was" before Lockett shot Neiman a second time.

"He ordered Mathis to bury her, despite the fact that Mathis informed him Stephanie was still alive."

We should do what we can to minimize pain in executions, but we should never forget that even in the worst execution what the murderer suffers is a tiny, tiny fraction of the suffering he chose to inflict on the victim.

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