The following editorials appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star.
The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma adds to the evidence in support of the conservative argument against the death penalty.
The personnel charged with killing Lockett couldn’t find a suitable vein in his arms, legs or neck to administer the lethal injection, so they put a needle into a vein in his groin, according to The Associated Press.
It didn’t work as intended. A doctor reported later that the vein had collapsed.
Lockett writhed on the table, tried to sit up and cried out. The execution was stopped. Lockett died 10 minutes later of a heart attack.
The circumstances affirm the conservative viewpoint that government is often inept, as well as inefficient and costly. It can’t be trusted to administer the death penalty properly.
To be sure, it’s almost impossible to muster sympathy for Lockett. Based on the court record, Lockett’s crime was truly heinous. He and two other men beat a 19-year-old woman, sexually assaulted her and then buried her alive.
Nonetheless, the founders decreed in the U.S. Constitution that convicts should not be sentenced to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In order to uphold that requirement, U.S. officials have moved from hangings and firing squads to gas and electrocutions. Lethal injections were supposed to be an improvement.
It should be pointed out that the bungled execution is not the first.
For example, in Florida in 2006 a convict named Angel Diaz continued moving and grimacing after a purportedly lethal dose of chemicals. Officials gave him a second dose.
An autopsy showed later that in the first attempt the needle had gone through the vein and out the other side.
Also bolstering the conservative argument against the death penalty recently was a statistical study by a team of researchers that concluded that 4.1 percent of people sentenced to death were actually innocent.
The researchers examined data on 7,482 defendants who were given death sentences between 1973 and 2004 and death row exonerations during the same period. Then they applied a statistical method usually used to determine the success rate of a new medical therapy to obtain their findings.
In Nebraska, officials are currently without the means to implement the death penalty because they have run out of a lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental, and have not revised the protocol for administering lethal injections.
That’s for the best, because the longer government tries to use the death penalty fairly and according to the U.S. Constitution, the more evidence there is that it’s just not up to the task.
Nebraska should repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.