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Cruel and unusual

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It wasn’t enough for the state of Oklahoma to murder him. It was also, apparently, necessary to torture him first.

It can’t be said for sure whether the state of Oklahoma actually executed Clayton Pickett Tuesday night or whether he died of a heart attack caused by their botched attempt to execute him. An autopsy was performed but it could be months before critical toxicology reports come back to tell us what drugs were in his system at the time of his death. What is known…and known for certain…is that the attempt to execute this man went horribly, horribly wrong. Ten minutes (ten!) after the first drugs began to flow, Pickett began to shake and writhe on the gurney, at one point attempting to sit up and saying “something’s wrong”. Indeed something was. Something was so wrong that the Director of Corrections attempted to stop the execution. Nonetheless, Pickett died some 43 minutes after his execution began.

The state did have the decency to postpone the execution of a second inmate scheduled to be murdered that night. And Governor Mary Fallin, after essentially ignoring a state Supreme Court stay of execution over this very issue, has ordered a probe into Oklahoma’s execution procedures and protocols. In so doing, she also detailed the “heinous” crime Pickett was convicted of, stating that she felt execution was the proper punishment for this act.

Apparently, it also made it okay to torture him.

Americans have spent decades trying to find a method of murdering convicts in the most “humane” manner possible. We have “progressed” from hanging to electrocution to gas now to lethal injection. Some particularly diehard capital punishment defenders objected to lethal injection because it was too humane, that the inmate didn’t suffer at all, that he just “went to sleep” and it was over.

We know now that isn’t true. We know the drug “cocktails” used to murder these people can cause terrible pain. And Oklahoma wasn’t the first to botch an execution. In Ohio, in January, it took over twenty minutes for an inmate to die and he was, in the words of witnesses, in visible pain as he did so. In South Dakota, an inmate’s last word were “my whole body feels like it’s burning.” In state after state, execution after execution, witnesses come forward to describe the suffering of the executed prisoner. Lethal injection, as with all its predecessors, is by definition cruel and unusual.

It’s time to stop. There is simply no way to murder someone “humanely”. Other countries have recognized this, giving up their death penalties. Overseas pharmaceutical companies refuse to allow their drugs to be used in executions. The United States is the only Western democracy still clinging to murder as punishment for their malefactors. It’s time to get off a bandwagon carrying the likes of Russian, Iran and Iraq.

It’s time to stop the state from committing murder in our name.

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