By Omowale-Ketu Oladuwa
In Oklahoma on April 29, the state botched the execution of Clayton Lockett, and 43 minutes after the first of a three-drug lethal cocktail had been injected into veins in both his arms the death row inmate died of a heart attack. Witnesses say 13 minutes into the fatal procedure, Lockett began thrashing and writhing, rolling his head and lifting his shoulders from the gurney to which he was strapped. At one point in the ordeal he uttered, “Oh man!” It took two minutes short of three-quarters of an hour for the state of Oklahoma to pronounce Clayton Derrell Lockett dead.
In 43 minutes you can drive from Fort Wayne to Warren, Ind., 20 miles north of Marion, on I-69, and still have five minutes to spare. That’s a long time dying. But ,some say that was a fitting way for the convicted murderer to go out—tortured as he had tortured his victim.
Full disclosure: I sat on death row for five-plus years waiting to die for a murder I did not commit, and while I am irrevocably opposed to the death penalty as applied in these United States, I make no bones about it, Clayton Lockett’s karma came home to visit him last Tuesday evening. But, that metaphysical fact doesn’t lessen the state’s responsibility for not getting its lethal cocktail right. Forty-three minutes for the victim’s parents, journalists, lawyers and other witnesses, and the prison staff to be subjected to legal murder by torture? Come on now, ain’t nothing right about that or the fact that the state of Oklahoma, by edict of its Supreme Court, denied the condemned the right to know from whence came the drug of his demise. The US Constitution requires that this procedure be neither cruel nor unusual. Lockett’s death was certainly both.
Understand that Stephanie Nieman should not have had to die buried alive, with her mouth duct-taped, and two shotgun blasts burning within her body. She should not have been kidnapped, beaten and then brutally murdered; but she was. In like manner, Clayton Lockett should not have had to suffer for 43 minutes writhing on a state gurney with bad drugs corroding his nervous system before his veins exploded and his heart failed.
We ought to be better than that. Even the proponents of the death penalty ought to demand better than that in the name of the American people; and since the European producers of the lethal drugs that formerly had been used in the execution of US capital cases have refused to supply the drugs, in opposition to the death penalty, American pharmacies should not be given anonymous cover by the state.
Oklahoma had a double bill scheduled for last Tuesday. Forty-six year old Charles Warner, condemned for the rape and murder of 11-month-old Adrianna Walker, was scheduled as the second execution that evening. His death-by-state has been put off for 14 days.
Murder is murder and there is no just punishment for murder, for murder will not bring back the deceased. Clearly, murder for murder is revenge. It is only revenge, and vengeance according to Christian orthodoxy belongs to The Lord, and despite all secularist statements to the contrary, America is a Christian nation. The state of Oklahoma or any other may lord it over their subjects but the state is not supreme and has no transcendental right to take life in the name of “the people” whose tax dollars pay for and justify “justice under the law.”
Should there be recourse to justice? Given that we Americans will not soon give up our emotional attachment to revenge then let the responsibility for the taking of life be in the hands of those who are the most injured. If Stephanie Nieman’s parents wanted to see Lockett dead, which they said they did, then they should have been given the right, responsibility, and means for the execution in the same brutal manner that their daughter was taken from them. If there is justice in this “moral universe” then that should be the formula. No one should be allowed to walk away from murder with “clean hands” or an unsullied mind.
If life is precious, even sacred, then it should be so across the board and there should be no exceptions despite our too frequent bestiality. Think how easily we snuff the life of an insect, or hunters take the life of an animal for sport not realizing that we are of the same genetic makeup, breathing the same air, consuming the same water, and yet we see ourselves so radically different from these other lives as to not bear witness and feel the sting at their extinction. If this is the brand of humanity we would have society in our name practice, then let our thirst for revenge, for blood, be placed in the proper spotlight of human consciousness.
Despite the grisly details of these murders, and the pious bullshit that passes as law, life is as sacred as we humans collectively make it. If there is a universal spirit that binds us all, I would pray these acts are not in its image. This purported moral universe in which we live is a magnum farce. As long as these episodes of state sanctioned insanity continue we’ll be stumbling blind through a dark universe of our own karma suturing our wrath with the emotion of our victims.