- Ada, Oklahoma

May 17, 2014

The true ‘botched’ executions

Lone Beasley Publisher
The Ada News

Ada — There are, perhaps, very good reasons to do away with the death penalty. It’s true that the relatively new science of DNA testing has exonerated some who had been wrongly convicted by a jury of their peers. 

Area residents know it happened here in the famous case involving the heinous 1982 death of Debra Sue Carter and the wrongful conviction of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz. It almost certainly follows that others, not so fortunate, have been wrongly executed in the past. If so, it is a great tragedy; one that is irreversible. 

Executions in which the true culprit has been convicted are supposed to be relatively quick affairs that live up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandate that they not be performed in a “cruel and unusual” fashion. 

Clayton Lockett, whose execution did not live up to that standard earlier this month, generated unfortunate headlines for Oklahoma. It took an excruciating 43-minutes. Witnesses say Lockett twitched, convulsed, spoke, and apparently even attempted to get up before finally dying of a heart attack. No otherwise disinterested observer with a conscience wants to watch someone go through an ordeal like that. 

This fiasco gave additional time to Charles Warner, the second person scheduled to die that night for his crimes. 

Official handwringing started immediately with Lockett’s attorneys demanding an investigation, which Gov. Mary Fallin quickly agreed to by forming a task force to review the situation. Attorney General Scott Pruitt agreed to petition the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for a six-month stay of execution for Warner. 

Soon the inevitable happened. Some began demanding that the death penalty be done away with completely. While there may be sound reasons for doing so, this case and the certain execution to come for Charles Warner do not seem to me to be the ones upon which I would hang my figurative hat. A look at the record explains why.

Lockett was on death row because he had been convicted of first-degree murder, rape and robbery. That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. After shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in a Kay County, OK home invasion, he watched as two accomplices buried her alive.  Nor is Warner exactly chamber of commerce material. He was convicted in the first degree rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter. So far as I know, no one has speculated on how long it took these two innocents to die.

“Irony” is a word that has nearly lost its meaning due to common misuse, but it seems to me to be in full play in the case of Lockett’s state-mandated death. Reports of it always label it as a “botched execution.” 

Yes, it was handled incorrectly, but it seems to me the true botched executions were those of Lockett and Warner’s victims. If the anti-death penalty folks are expecting a great deal of sympathy for their cause based on the plight of these two illicit “executioners,” it will likely be in short supply. 


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