It Wasn’t Botched

Recently the State of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett. It was handled poorly. Lockett resisted being restrained and had an “electric shock administered” to achieve compliance. This may have damaged the vein where the needle was inserted for the lethal injection. Apparently it collapsed. They then had the needle inserted in the groin area, but there were not enough lethal drugs left to administer another dose. Nevertheless, Lockett died from a heart attack (evidently he received a deadly dose despite the collapsed vein) fifty-one minutes into the procedure.

Lockett had been convicted of shooting and then helping bury Stephanie Nieman alive, a nineteen-year-old, who died. His attorney Madeline Cohen criticized the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for “using an invasive and painful method, an IV line in his groin.” Death penalty foes are screaming “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the White House said “the process fell short of humane standards.” Many are saying the execution was botched.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, in part, a person shall not “be deprived the right to life…without due process of law.” The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Both of these Amendments were adopted at the same time as part of the first Ten Amendments known collectively as the Bill of Rights. It is logically inconceivable that the framers considered capital punishment cruel and unusual. The death penalty is not inherently unconstitutional.

The trier of the facts, a jury of his peers, found Clayton Lockett guilty of murder. The trier of the law, the judge in the case, sentenced him to a legal punishment for his crime. That is what we call “due process” in America.

I do not know if there is a painless or humane way to administer the death penalty, but legally speaking there is no constitutional requirement for it to be painless or humane. I am not saying we should torture felons to death, but hangings, electrocution, and lethal injections, while possibly painful and inhumane, are not considered unusual forms of execution in human history.

After the Flood when Noah disembarked from the Ark, God commanded him, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man,” Genesis 9:6. God instituted the death penalty at the reestablishment of civilization, for the wellbeing of society, and the administration of justice lost by humanity before the Flood. Society is responsible to its citizens to protect them from murderers by the administration of justice. While the death penalty may be painful and inhumane, it is still necessary if we want to maintain justice.

The express purpose of an execution is to apply the death penalty in the furtherance of the administration of justice. Clayton Lockett died for his crimes; it may have been handled poorly, but his execution wasn’t botched.


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