The United States is not into cruel and unusual punishment, so death sentences these days are carried out by lethal injection. Whenever someone has been found guilty of a crime so heinous that they're subjected to the death penalty, the goal is to take them out as swiftly and painlessly as possible, which is why a sedative is added as part of the deadly cocktail.
Unfortunately, a new formula was used in Oklahoma Tuesday night, and the execution of Clayton Lockett was botched and halted after the drugs failed to work. He died almost an hour after the first injection of an apparent heart attack. A second scheduled execution of another convicted murderer was postponed.
Corrections Director Robert Patton made the call to halt the execution when it became clear that Lockett wasn't reacting to the drugs as expected. It is supposed to take 6 to 12 minutes from injection to death, but after 20 minutes, it was clear something was wrong. He believes that a vein rupture caused the chemicals to escape his veins.
In a news conference after the incident, Patton said, "There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having that [desired] effect, and the doctor observed the line at that time and determined the line had blown."
Lockett's attorney said, "It was extremely difficult to watch." No kidding. According to reports, the inmate was convulsing on the table and, at one point, even sat up and said something.
Governor Mary Fallin has issued a 14-day stay of execution for the second inmate who was scheduled for his death two hours after Lockett on the same gurney. It was to be the state's first double execution in almost 100 years.
Lockett was convicted of killing a 19-year-old girl in 1999. He shot Stephanie Neiman when she entered a home he was robbing and then watched as two accomplices buried her alive.
One witness described the gory scene:
Lockett grimaced and tensed his body several times over a three-minute period before the execution was shielded from the press. After being declared unconscious ten minutes into the process, Lockett spoke at three separate moments. The first two were inaudible, however the third time he spoke, Lockett said the word 'man.'
Lockett declined a "last meal" after his original surf and turf request was denied for exceeding the $15 limit. Prison officials say he declined the warden's offer for a dinner from Western Sizzlin.
What a gruesome scene and sure to raise lots of strong opinions on both sides of the capital punishment debate.
How do you feel about the death penalty?