Jon Poilpre ’15
Clayton Lockett was a convicted rapist and murderer who was sentenced to the death penalty in an Oklahoma State prison. His execution was composed of three different drugs, one to stop his respiratory system and one to stop his heart, along with an initial relaxant.
This was the first time that the Oklahoma State prison system used the relaxant drug, known as midazolam, in an execution. It is intended to make the prisoner unconscious before the two drug lethal injection is administered. However, seven minutes after the injection, which was injected into Lockett’s groin because a suitable limb vein could not be found, Lockett was still conscious. A few minutes after that he began to try to rise and speak. Then, one of Lockett’s veins burst. The execution was ordered to be stopped, and the blinds of the execution room closed to the media. Lockett died 42 minutes later from a heart attack.
This issue received international attention, and not only led to questions about Oklahoma’s procedure for the lethal injection but the morality of capital punishment itself. Criticizers point to this case as an example of an execution that consists of “cruel and unusual punishment”, which violates the U.S. constitution. It also brings up questions of how the state’s administer criminal punishments as opposed to on a federal level. The reaction to this story indicates that the question of whether or not the death penalty should be continued is not drawing to a close anytime soon.