A REFRESHING COCKTAIL

Sick as a dog today, so I just want to note that the plan to allow death penalty states to wing their own cocktails of lethal injection drugs is going well. Really, really well.

According to reporters tweeting from inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, the execution of Clayton D. Lockett has failed. Lockett died of a heart attack after the execution was aborted.

The execution of Charles Warner, which was supposed to take place at 9 p.m. ET., was stayed by Corrections Director Robert Patton.

According to the AP reporter on the scene, about 34 minutes after the execution was scheduled to begin, Lockett was still conscious.

"He was lifting [his] head at [7:39 p.m. ET] and he was still alive and DOC closed [the] curtain and stopped it," Cary Aspinwall tweets.

Patton told reporters that Lockett's vein failed during the execution, preventing the chemicals from entering his body. All three drugs, however, were administered.

At 8:06 p.m. ET., more than an hour after the execution was scheduled to begin, Lockett died of a massive heart attack.

In the weeks leading up to the execution, there had been much controversy over the combination of drugs the state was going to use for the execution.

Warner's attorney, Madeline Cohen, called the proposed execution method "experimental."

This botched execution follows a controversial one undertaken in Ohio in January. As we reported, when that state executed Dennis McGuire with a new cocktail of drugs, it took 24 minutes for him to die and he gasped for air and made snorting and choking sounds for at least 10 minutes.

Don't worry though, Ohio investigated the execution and found that McGuire didn't suffer any pain. Phew!

But go ahead America, keep posting those stories about Kim Jong-un having his uncle eaten by a pack of wild animals if it makes you feel morally superior. I mean, what kind of barbaric nation would allow that?

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50 Responses to “A REFRESHING COCKTAIL”

  1. Nick Says:

    I honestly don't understand why the firing squad is so terrible. I mean, assuming we're going to have capital punishment, it seems to me like a bullet to the heart is more humane than a) taking an hour to have a massive heart attack or b) dying in horrible pain while paralyzed. I guess it's less attractive for the people watching or something, but if we're going to execute people, let's not pretend that they're just going to slip off peacefully into the great beyond.

  2. Xynzee Says:

    Pourquoi pas Madame Guillotine?

    Sure it's messier, but I'm sure (p)Rick Perry would love to be front and centre like a great big bukkake money shot.

  3. Tim H. Says:

    For my part, it's sufficient if someone judged guilty of capital crime is locked up for life. If they must be put to death, consider a 100% nitrogen atmosphere.

  4. Nick G. Says:

    I've been of the opinion for some time that the best we could do with convicted rapists and murderers is to use them for medical experiments currently using animals. Killing them outright is completely useless. Funding a life in prison even more so. By subjecting such convicts to animal-testing style medical experiments we'll get accurate results for human subjects, and making them suffer in one stone. That would be the morally superior option, but unfortunately some idiot would argue it's "cruel and unusual."

  5. Andrew Says:

    I really hope that's an attempt at satire or somesuch, Nick.

  6. Middle Seaman Says:

    How can you say that somehow the N. Korean is morally equivalent with the US? Our rich oligarchic leadership wears better suits and has superior hearcuts.

  7. Scott Says:

    I'm iffy about capitol punishment because we seem to get the wrong guy so often, but if we're going to do it we should be using something that's available and that we know works.

    I'd go with heroin. Every state has tons in its evidence lockers, and it'll kill you dead. Maybe a little Compazine first, for the nausea.

  8. HoosierPoli Says:

    "I honestly don't understand why the firing squad is so terrible."

    I know there were problems with the executioners themselves. Shooting a human being isn't something most people can do.

  9. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    This brings up an interesting (and rather paradoxical) historical question: at what stage in civilization did the state start trying to make executions "humane"? Although I'm sure there are antecedents, the earliest I can think of is the French Revolution, with the application of the guillotine. They would have a priest catch the lopped-off head and tell it to blink to determine if the victim was cognizant of their own decapitation. (Spoiler: the still-oxygenated blood in their brain meant they were.) Seems we still haven't gotten the hang of it.

  10. Elle Says:

    Is it just meanness and/or puritanism that makes the state not provide death by metric fuckton of morphine?

    I find it very difficult to understand people who support the death penalty. Or people who think it's okay to hold prisoners in isolation from one another or other humans. Or people who want prisoners' lives to be made more difficult.

    I entirely accept that some people are dangerous to other humans, and should be deprived of their liberty to protect other people. The rest of the way that the criminal justice system operates leaves me a little cold.

  11. Graham Says:

    Well, what would you expect from a country that waterboards innocent people and won't even let them go after they have been shown to be innocent?

    On the subject, what's wrong with the Russian bullet to the back of the head, the French guillotine or, even better, whatever is in the big green needle they give to dogs?

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    I'm hoping that was a lot of satire and *snark* by some of my fellow commenters.

    There is no reason for a death penalty, except abject cruelty.
    By having death penalties, we as a society, are little better than the people we want to execute.
    It reflects badly on all of us, that we think executions by a government of "We the people" are ok, but individual murders of people are not.

  13. Major Kong Says:

    I'm certain that there are people who really need to die. That being said, I don't trust the State of __________ (pick one) to do it.

    In some hypothetical perfect world I might support the death penalty but in such a world we wouldn't need the death penalty.

    In the real world it's a barbaric practice that puts in company with people like Saudi Arabia and North Korea, who I would like to think we're still a little better than.

  14. Sarah Says:

    I find it very difficult to understand people who support the death penalty. Or people who think it's okay to hold prisoners in isolation from one another or other humans. Or people who want prisoners' lives to be made more difficult.

    I entirely accept that some people are dangerous to other humans, and should be deprived of their liberty to protect other people. The rest of the way that the criminal justice system operates leaves me a little cold.

    The revenge factor enters into it, as well as the horrific nature of the crimes they commit–I live in the area where a 7 year old girl went missing while walking home from school and was discovered a couple days later in a landfill, she'd been raped and strangled. I went to her school for fourth and fifth grades and I used to walk and bike on the road where she went missing. Richard Speck was once mentioned on Law & Order as having died in prison of old age, by a character who was a practicing Catholic and opposed to the death penalty (I've no idea what the actor's religious and political views were/are). The thing is that at the time of Speck's death he was doing lines of cocaine and having a fabulous time with his besties in prison. He recorded a video of himself doing this while saying that if the public ever got wind of what he was doing, they (we) would all demand that he be turned loose. For the sentence to which he was committed, he had raped and murdered eight young women who were rooming together while attending nursing school. A ninth woman who had managed to play dead while hiding under the bed had to crawl over the bodies of five of her friends while naked, in order to reach a window and start screaming for help. My mother was a nursing student and living near that area at the time this happened. I mean, people tend to take things like this a little personally.

    Having said all of that, I am opposed to the death penalty. I think with the racist and misogynist nature of our society, there is too much potential for it to be applied unfairly. I think that the movement towards "humane" methods of execution is merely to limit the gruesome nature of the act for the people who are doing it and for the spectators, which is a philosophy I find laughable.

  15. Hugo Says:

    The only country in the Western world that still executes prisoners. American Exceptionalism!

  16. Nick Says:

    Hoosier, I suppose I can see that, but it seems like those issues would be inherent in any form of execution, whether the executioner is pulling a trigger or pressing a button or flipping a switch. At least with firing squads they used to do the thing where one or two would get a wax bullet in their rifle so none would have to be sure that he fired the fatal shot.

    C u n d, The whole "how can the state kill people to say killing is wrong" argument is a false equivalency. Executing someone convicted of a heinous crime by a (theoretically) impartial jury is quite a bit different than murdering someone for personal gain or whatever messed up psychological reasons a murderer may have. Not all deaths are morally equal.

    I do think we should reserve the option of the death penalty for the sorts of truly heinous and irredeemable crimes mentioned above, although the disparity in all sentencing makes me think there need to be a lot more qualifications on it (eg requires DNA or other irrefutable evidence).

  17. Marco Says:

    Pourquoi pas Madame Guillotine?

    Paper or plastic?

  18. Marco Says:

    Nick wrote"…..Executing someone convicted of a heinous crime by a (theoretically) impartial jury is quite a bit different…" There in lies the rub. There is no such thing as an "impartial jury." Nor is there an impartial prosecutor or judge. As one of our greatest jurist wrote: "Tis better to let 9 guilty people go free than to convict an innocent person."

    Ok, I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist. The death penalty is wrong. Period.

  19. sphys Says:

    Does Japan count as the Western world? I find it odd that they're one of the outliers.

    Anyway, at times like these I wonder if the probability that the death *isn't* painless isn't part of the point. Certainly I can't believe that shooting someone (or even tightening a noose around their neck and opening the trapdoor!) is harder on the psychology of the executioner than sticking a needle into the veins of someone who's been strapped down in order to pump them full of drugs.

  20. Csicopper Says:

    It's a form of entertainment for immature societies.

    Too, societies that don't consider health care a cash cow usually don't have executions.

  21. RosiesDad Says:

    I am a practicing veterinarian and we perform euthanasia on a fairly regular basis.

    I am an opponent of the death penalty (Mario Cuomo was right back in the 1980's when he said, "The State ought not be in the business of retribution") but because using drugs to end life is a part of my professional career, this entire thing leaves me baffled.

    Who the fuck are they consulting with when figuring out the means by which to perform executions? A competent 3rd year pharmacology student could give them a protocol using inexpensive common drugs that could adequately sedate the condemned and then, once they are no longer conscious, stop their heart. It's not that complicated.

    Just completely clueless and incompetent to the point where you have to believe that they don't care if they get it right.

  22. Graham Says:

    I'm glad you made that point, Rosie's Dad.

  23. Xynzee Says:

    @Marco:
    "Paper or plastic?"
    As I do not spend much time pondering (p)Rick's fetishes, I'll take a wild guess he'd prefer pleather ;)

    Perhaps I'm biased by family history of having someone questionably executed, Wilbert Coffin, but I cannot see a reason for a death penalty. I could easily send someone to spend their days in jail, but never the gallows.

  24. Malcolm Says:

    The problem, folks, isn't that they don't know how to conduct executions using ordinary pharmaceuticals. The problem is that the drug companies won't sell the states the pharmaceuticals they need to carry out the executions.

  25. Brian M Says:

    Stories aside of the grand ol' time being had by all in the Maximum Security Lockups, I, myself, would much prefer a quick injection to 20 years in a hard core prison. Talk about cruel and unusual (albeit necessary) punishment. There are worse things than a quick death. Get it over with.

    Unless one is truly innocent and has the hope of being freed…

  26. deep Says:

    Brain M… and yet suicide is considered a crime. Ohhhh the irony.

  27. doug Says:

    There are plenty of terrible crimes committed where there is 100% certainty of the perp. One example: the shootings in the theatre in Colorado, another the bomber in Boston.

    There is no reason to keep such people alive. I don't really care how we kill them. They are not fit for the planet.

  28. Sarah Says:

    Who the fuck are they consulting with when figuring out the means by which to perform executions? A competent 3rd year pharmacology student could give them a protocol using inexpensive common drugs that could adequately sedate the condemned and then, once they are no longer conscious, stop their heart. It's not that complicated.

    I can't speak to the process of choosing the drug cocktails. But a criminal defense attorney (who is, as a matter of fact, in favor of the death penalty) once discussed in class the process of choosing the executioner. See, a doctor's not going to do it because of the Hippocratic Oath, and a nurse won't do it for the same reason. I highly doubt that a professional hematologist, whose whole job is knowing how to look for and pierce a vein, is going to do it. So basically what you've got a series of lay people with a vague idea of the human cardiovascular system and how it works, taking turns jabbing needles randomly into whoever happens to be up for execution that day.

    Blech.

  29. Death Panel Truck Says:

    "I highly doubt that a professional hematologist, whose whole job is knowing how to look for and pierce a vein, is going to do it."

    Hematologists study blood and blood diseases. The people whose whole job is to find and pierce veins are called phlebotomists.

  30. Sarah Says:

    @Death Panel Truck: Oops. You're right, my mistake.

  31. Khaled Says:

    The death penalty can be a rather emotional issue- while I am like Major Kong in the sense that I don't trust the State of _____ to be in charge of it (the same state that can't figure out how to keep the roads paved, FFS). I also struggle with the moral idea that we can judge that someone deserves to die.
    It's all very academic, unless someone you know is senselessly murdered. I'm not talking about a car crash, gang warfare, etc. One of my former employees, who I really thought was a pretty nice guy, was stabbed to death, his body hacked up and dumped. Not only did I want the guy who killed my former employee to be executed, I kind of wanted to be the one to do it.
    That all being said, I still don't like the idea of a jury sending someone to their death- but how do you tell that to one of the families of the children that were murdered at Newtown?

  32. mothra Says:

    Khaled and Sarah:
    Sure, you might think that it would be satisfying to watch the killer of your friends or family or someone who lived in the same town executed. But really all it does is perpetuate the violence. Not to mention that the state has a pretty bad track record in convicting innocent people. How would you feel if you watched the gruesome execution of someone you'd been told was responsible for killing your friend/family member/neighbor and then later learned that whoops, they got the wrong person? Nah, the death penalty is barbaric. Punkt.

    However, all that being said, I read this morning that the doctor who developed the three-drug cocktail is actually advocating for the return of the guillotine–because it is more humane. But, if what we are looking for is vengeance, I'd promote crucifixion. Now that's how you make someone suffer for their crimes, by Jove.

  33. Andrew Says:

    Japan is not a Western country. It is an Asian country. 95% of Asians live in a country where the death penalty is alive and well (no pun intended).

  34. Andrew Says:

    In sharp contrast to Asia and the USA, no one was executed in Europe in 2012, for the first time ever.

  35. RosiesDad Says:

    Malcolm:

    I did see that pharmaceutical companies are making barbiturates unavailable to state penal systems (these are the drugs that we use for euthanasia) but you don't need barbiturates to humanely end a life.

    Jack Kevorkian helped X number of people end their own lives with a bag of saline and a bottle of potassium chloride. (A rapidly administered bolus of potassium will stop your heart almost instantly.)

    Maybe this is a time to try to have a reasoned conversation about capital punishment. But based on what I have read about Mary Fallin, you are not going to have a reasoned conversation with her about anything.

    So I'll hang with my conclusion: They don't really care if they get it right or not.

  36. Robert Says:

    I'm not certain which is more inherently inhumane:
    a) you are kept in captivity, knowing that at a certain time in the future people will come and take you somewhere to be calmly and methodically killed, or
    b) you are kept in captivity, knowing that you will be so kept for the remainder of your natural life.

    The idea that some people merit being treated inhumanely is an entirely different topic. If I were on a jury, I might very well vote for life without possibility of parole, but not for execution. Also, on a practical level, the first one would be less likely to result in endless appeals, as well as being less appalling when the Real Killer is found years later.

  37. Elle Says:

    The revenge factor enters into it, as well as the horrific nature of the crimes they commit–I live in the area where a 7 year old girl went missing while walking home from school and was discovered a couple days later in a landfill, she'd been raped and strangled.

    Vengeance may be a human impulse, but the narrative of "these sociopathic beasts don't deserve to live" is deeply counterproductive if you actually care about violence against women and children. There are perpetrators who fit the ubiquitous stranger-danger profile, but only 3% of children murdered between 1980 and 2008 were killed by strangers. Women aged between 25 and 49 were more likely to be killed by their intimate partners than all other categories of perpetrator combined. [cite]

    There are towering piles of evidence that point to real solutions to violence against women and children, and they don't include capital punishment. Creating a notional class of sub-human who behaves in an inexplicable and monstrous way, deserving of mediaeval physical punishment, lets the rest of us off the hook of challenging the environment that enables harm.

  38. Elle Says:

    I'm not certain which is more inherently inhumane:
    a) you are kept in captivity, knowing that at a certain time in the future people will come and take you somewhere to be calmly and methodically killed, or
    b) you are kept in captivity, knowing that you will be so kept for the remainder of your natural life.

    I agree, Robert. I don't think anyone should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. I think that people who cannot be cured of a disorder that makes them unsafe to be around other people should be detained in a forensic setting, and their treatment should be reviewed periodically.

  39. Sphys Says:

    Ha! Fair enough, Andrew, I should've specified "metaphorically." People often use "Western" to mean "part of the free world" or "meeting a minimum standard of commitment to human rights." Of course, that's kind of a prejudiced phrase, but then if we say that "the US is the only Western country to have capital punishment," there's already an uncomfortable implication that Western countries generally are the most moral, so I prefer to expand the definition of Western rather than imply that India, Japan, South Korea, etc. are less moral. So. Japan, generally viewed to be not terrible in terms of human rights (not great, either, but still considered an established democracy in good standing) has the death penalty. Meanwhile they have yet to amend their Constitution to allow military action outside their borders, even in response to attack, and they ban guns and swords. Why are they different from the UK and France, which bomb people?

    If you insist on limiting "Western" to its geographic sense, why did Turkey ban it (according to Wikipedia) in 2004? How about Mongolia and Russia?

  40. Sarah Says:

    @mothra, you seem to have misunderstood what I was saying. I'm opposed to the death penalty, albeit not on moral grounds–I mean, I wouldn't have shed any tears for Jarred Harrell had he gotten the death penalty, but if I were sitting on his jury I would not have voted to execute him. Not that he doesn't deserve to die–he raped and strangled a 7 year old, for Christ's sake–but principles are principles. (That makes me ineligible to sit on a jury in a capital case, FWIW.) I don't believe the death penalty can be "humane" with the system and the politics we have now; RosiesDad makes a good point about how Jack Kevorkian managed to euthanize a whole lotta people with their consent and without causing them suffering, so the fact that our officials can't seem to get their act together on this means that there is something else going on. As far as execution for vengeance goes, I say bring back disembowellment and drawing and quartering. (Uh, sarcasm there.)

  41. Eau Says:

    The whole 'eye for an eye, this guy deserves to die' line of reasoning is inherently flawed, isn't it? You kill her, I kill you, but I remain morally superior seems…. Um… Stupid to me.

  42. ronzie9 Says:

    I'll recognize your moral authority to take life from those who don't deserve it the day you gain the power to reward with life those of the dead who do.

  43. fdchief218 Says:

    I think the most valid objection to and problem with execution is the existing record of verdicts later overturned, either on procedural grounds or by evidence.

    Simply put, we don't do a terrific job of "impartial" justice; a fair number of people are convicted who are either not guilty or not guilty of the crime(s) they are convicted of.

    That sucks if you end up spending fifteen years in prison for a crime you didn't commit. But how do you "Oopsie, my bad!" when you've filled the poor bastard full of toxins and planted him in Potter's Field?

    So the means and methods, or the heinousness of the various murderers, is really immaterial. Until we can be 100% certain that We the People will never murder an innocent I'd say we're better off not taking the chance. It's like any other form of irreversible choice; you can walk right up to that door and still walk away. But once you've opened and walked through there's no chance of undoing things, no way to meaningfully atone, no hope of making it right.

  44. democommie Says:

    I don't see any irony in the KKKristian ReiKKKwingers being HUGE supporters of war AND capital punishment while trying to deny women the right to choose what happens to their own bodies; do you? It's not like their skydaddy ever said, "Vengeance is mine!*" or anything like that.

    * Well, he didn't actually say it, but they love to claim that he did.

  45. stickler Says:

    I think some of the stuff revolving around lethal injection has to do with our squeamishness regarding blood. A firing squad gets the job done, and right quick at that. A guillotine generally doesn't miss and is quite decisive. A hangman's noose, properly applied, takes care of the problem in maybe the most rapid and decisive manner possible (though there was a guy in Washington State in the '90s who consciously porked himself up to like 300 pounds so that the hanging would necessarily be problematic and likely to decapitate him — he hoped to duck the penalty by being fat!).

    If we're going to be killing people, we should be honest with ourselves and just do it. This chemical cocktail stuff is smoke and mirrors to hide the horror of the State killing people in our names. Or maybe the State should not be in the killing business.

  46. Anonymouse Says:

    @Rosie's Dad: thanks for your perspective, and you opened my eyes the fact that in three decades of pet ownership, not a single elderly, ill pet I've taken for euthanasia has ever seemed to suffer from it. It's quick and (except for the initial needle-stick) painless. As Sarah pointed out, there has to be more behind the botched executions than "wooops, who can get this cocktail right?"

  47. A Magnet Says:

    Man. The number of GnT commenters that only feel like Real Men when human beings in orange jumpsuits are needlessly suffering is kind of startling. What the fuck guys? Do you have no shame?

  48. Neal Deesit Says:

    Imposing and effecting death sentences are, notwithstanding their existential import, apparently subject to "close enough for government work" standards, to wit:

    A conservative estimate of the proportion of erroneous death sentences in the U.S. is 4.1 percent.

    Since the beginning of the 20th century, an estimated 3 percent of all executions in the United States were “botched.” Inmates caught fire while being electrocuted, were strangled (instead of having their necks broken) during hangings, or were administered the wrong dosages of specific drugs for lethal injections.

  49. milegrinder Says:

    To the commenters who wonder whether firing a rifle, releasing a guillotine blade, or tightening a noose around the condemned's neck and opening the trap door would cause problems for the executioner, you have never met a member of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. 30,000 bloodthirsty bastards who'd do it in heartbeat, especially if there is overtime involved. There are ski boat payments to be made, and the girlfriend's boob job that's gotta get covered.