Capital Punishment - A Botched System

In the chapter “Invitation to an Execution” of my book, When the War Came Home, I posed a question to legislators who seek votes by voting for capital punishment:  will you attend the executions for which you bear responsibility and/or claim credit?

During a recent execution in Oklahoma, the State’s executioners pulled the blinds over the glass that separates the state prison’s death chamber from its viewing gallery.  They did this because the state had decided to kill Clayton Lockett with an untested mixture of drugs.  The results were so cruel that officials felt that the witnesses should not be made – or even allowed – to witness the event.  Strapped to a gurney with an IV in his arm, Lockett was not unconscious, as he was supposed to be.  Rather, he was trying to lift his head as he clenched his teeth, convulsed, gasped for air, and writhed in pain.

This result should have come as no surprise.  Officials had decided to use one fifth a customary dose of the drug midazolam, the drug intended to sedate the prisoner, before lethal doses of the death drugs – with their own potentially torturous effects – were injected.  This is only the latest in a series of botched lethal injection executions.  Lethal injection, you will recall, was prescribed as the antidote to other horrifying methods of execution with which America has experimented, including hanging, the electric chair, and the gas chamber.

But the gruesome results of botched executions are only one symptom of the larger problem of America’s death penalty system which executes the innocent and is inherently racist.

My view on the meaning of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett are expressed at greater length in my May 2, 2012 column in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, available here and online at

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