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Clayton Lockett execution latest chapter in death penalty debate

Clayton Hoskett and Charles Warner.......Hoskett executed, Warner next up.
Clayton Hoskett and Charles Warner.......Hoskett executed, Warner next up.
Oklahoma prison system

The debate over whether or not there should be a death penalty will continue as long as the American civilization endures, but the 45-minute execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last night will add yet another chapter to that conversation, according to the London Guardian. What was so unique about this lethal injection was that this convicted murderer died of a heart attack after the lethal injection failed to kill him, according to USA Today.

Those against the death penalty have a new piece of evidence to argue as Lockett reportedly writhed on the gurney while his executioners futilely searched for a vein into which they could inject the deadly serum. But the IV wouldn't fit in his arm, legs, neck or anywhere else so they final resorted to his groin. When that didn't work, the director said to stop trying to inject him. A heart attack a few minutes later sent him into eternity.

Those against the death penalty will surely argue that this was definitely cruel and unusual punishment. Supporters will point to his 14-year old female victim. She and a friend reportedly interrupted Lockett and his confederates during a burglary. Lockett evidently decided without too much hesitation that she deserved the death penalty for spoiling his invasion of someone's home.

Lockett shot his helpless victim with a shotgun and then had her buried alive. How long did it take her to die underground while suffering from a gunshot wound? Was it longer than the 45 minutes it took Lockett to make his slide into the next world from his gurney?

We'll never know. She was suffering from the gunshot wound and increasingly the loss of air as she faced suffocation. We can only imagine the horror she felt as she realized her ultimate fate, alone with her thoughts during those last painful moments. What can the system do about her cruel and unusual execution?

Some have said in the wake of this messy execution, what's wrong with firing squads? Utah still uses this method and there's no doubt the convicted one will die rather rapidly after a line of sharpshooters send lead messengers of death into his body. Gary Gilmore became famous when he chose execution by firing squad in the Beehive State.

Of course many argue that a murderer should be killed the same way he killed his victim. If he tortured her, then he should also be tortured before he is executed. But the U.S. Supreme Court long ago outlawed "cruel and unusual punishment" for murderers as unconstitutional. The Court didn't say anything about protecting victims from being murdered in a cruel and unusual manner.

The execution of the second man Oklahoma was to execute this week has been put off indefinitely. One would hate to be in the ondeck circle in this situation, knowing how Lockett spent his last few moments. Imagine how he must feel. He may be wondering if lethal injection doesn't kill him, will he suffer the same fate as Lockett?

Prison director Robert Patton wrote to Governor Mary Fallin that by the time prison personnel discovered the IV was dislodged from his groin area, the death drugs had all been used up. There was no point in proceeding with the execution then.

Patton ordered the execution stopped at 6:56 p.m. At 7:06 p.m. Lockett was dead from a heart attack.

Since Texas and other states have instituted life without parole, many people have argued there is no longer a reason for the death penalty. Some even say the prospect of spending the rest of one's life behind prison walls without hope of ever being released would be a more severe punishment than death.

Charles Warner was scheduled to be executed two hours after Lockett's demise. His execution was delayed though as Fallin ordered an investigation into the state's execution protocol.

Oklahoma is tied with Virginia for second in the nation for most executions behind Texas.

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