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“…nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

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Annals of the American death penalty:

An Oklahoma inmate whose execution was halted Tuesday because the delivery of a new drug combination was botched died of a heart attack, the head of the state Department of Corrections said.

Director Robert Patton said inmate Clayton Lockett died Tuesday after all three drugs were administered.

Patton halted Lockett’s execution about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered. He said there had been vein failure.

The execution began at 6:23 p.m. when officials began administering the first drug, and a doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33 p.m.

About three minutes later, though, Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow. After about three minutes, a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering Lockett to examine the injection site.

More on this tomorrow.

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  • Peter

    The death penalty was barbarous before this, I know. But this is just so messed up.

    • John Revolta

      Crap. So, not only are we the only so-called Christian nation still doing this shit, but we can’t even fucking do it right.

      Makes ya feel real proud.

      • Tristan

        One of the more horrible things about the death penalty is that as it’s become less popular while still managing to cling on to the books, the attempts to make it more humane have largely been geared towards making it look less appalling, and what it actually does to a person has been treated as a secondary concern. If I found myself in some Kafkaesque scenario of choosing from the last hundred years’ techniques for my own execution I’d take hanging every time.

        • Does it have to be used in America in the last 100 years? Because France kept the guillotine until they abolished the death penalty in, I think, the 1970s. Seems pretty ideal to me, from the perspective of the person being executed. One moment your head’s attached, then a swift slice and it’s in a basket.

          • JMP

            But it’s bloody; and the purpose of modern execution methods is to make it as quick and painless as possible for the executioners and witnesses, so they hardly even realize there’s someone being brutally murdered.

            • Anonymous

              She was kidnapped, shot twice and buried alive in 1999 a month after she graduated from high school.

              Lockett was involved in a botched raid on a house with two other men belonging to Bobby Bornt when Miss Neiman and another 19-year-old woman walked in.

              Reports from the time said that Mr Bornt owed Lockett money and that he was tied up and beaten during the ordeal.

              Miss Neiman’s friend was dragged into the house and hit in the face with a shotgun.

              Under duress, the friend then called Miss Neiman into the home and she was also hit in the face with the gun.

              Her friend was raped by all three men before they were taken to a rural part of Kay County, Oklahoma

              Lockett told them that he was going to kill them all but shot Miss Neiman twice when she refused to give her keys and pickup’s alarm code.

              When she was shot dead, she was stood in a shallow grave that had been dug by one of Lockett’s accomplices, Shawn Mathis. He told Lockett that Miss Neiman was still alive, but Lockett ordered Mathis to bury her.

          • Tristan

            I was thinking of North America, but sure, if you want to broaden the scope. Saudi Arabia still beheads people, but distressingly they’re considering a move to lethal injection for the same blinkered image-conscious definition of ‘humane’ that’s been applied in the USA.

          • Lurking Canadian

            Actually, my understanding is that guillotines (at least in Robespierre’s day) were kind of unreliable. Some people needed two or three whacks. Waiting for the blade to be dragged back up can’t have been any fun at all.

            • N__B

              I’ve got to believe that keeping the tracks for the blade clean and smooth enough to ensure a fast drop was not the highest priority of the government.

            • Richard Gadsden

              Axes were notoriously unreliable, which is why noblemen were executed with a sword.

              Guillotines and long-drop hanging are the two most reliable and fast methods of execution. They look gruesome as hell and require a competent executioner.

              Poisoning (which is what “lethal injection” really is) has always been a nasty and unpleasant way to die. It just looks nicer.

        • Hanging really depends on the executioner, though. Albert Pierpont allegedly prided himself on being able to get a prisoner from his cell and to the end of a rope with a broken neck in a matter of minutes, precisely because he didn’t want to cause undue pain and suffering. I think that combination, of someone who on the one hand has enough compassion to want to master the expertise of killing people swiftly and painlessly, and on the other hand is willing to kill people for the state, is fairly rare nowadays.

    • Anonymous

      You dolt. This barbarous:

      “A jury found that on June 3, 1999, Clayton Lockett and two co-conspirators, Shawn Mathis and Alfonso Lockett, broke into the Perry, Oklahoma, home of Bobby Bornt. They assaulted Bornt before burglarizing his home for drugs. While they were at Bornt’s home, two 19-year-old women arrived. The men repeatedly raped and assaulted one woman, whose name is withheld as a victim of sexual assault, before loading Bornt, Bornt’s 9-month-old son, Stephanie Nieman, and the other woman into Bornt’s and Nieman’s trucks and driving them to a rural location in Kay County.

      Bornt testified that he heard Clayton Locket say, “Someone has got to go,” before he put Nieman in a ditch dug by Shawn Mathis and shot her twice. He also testified to hearing the men laugh about “how tough [Nieman] was” when she did not die after the first shot.”

      • Patrick Phelan

        It’s real fortunate that two barbarouses make a civilised, isn’t it?

        • witless chum

          It’s always precious when your crasser death penalty proponent admits he wants to be on a moral par with the Clayton Locketts of the world.

      • dick tracy

        Thanks for admitting you are a bloodthirsty murderer at heart.

      • repsac3

        The reason we avoid torturing our country’s enemies and cruelly punishing those who break our laws–even when those enemies and lawbreakers have shown that they torture and are intentionally cruel to others–is because we are not them. Our American, religious, and human values and ideals prevent our giving in those animal instincts, and we’ve made laws to prevent our doing so when tempted. The people who don’t do that–who can’t control those base instincts and do torture and otherwise behave cruelly toward others…well, they’re the very people whose eyes and teeth you’re talking about pulling out, aren’t they…?

        Avoiding torture and cruelly has nothing to do with who they are or what they do, Dr. Douglas… It’s about who we are…Who we are, and who we strive to be…

      • cpinva

        duh, no dhit.

        “This barbarous:”

        and no one claimed it wasn’t. that an individual in our society commits an obviously heinous act does not require that we, as a society overall, commit heinous acts as retribution. I know you get this, and your blurb was just to get a rise (because if you truly believe this, you need to be institutionalized, before you murder someone), but that’s why 8A exists; the author’s were painfully familiar with the inhumane acts, committed by the European state’s, on their citizens, purportedly on their citizen’s behalf. they expected us to be a better society than that.

        • cpinva

          rats! should have been “no shit”. my kingdom for an edit function!

      • Guggenheim Swirly

        Luckily, the state’s revenge brought the victims back to life.

    • DrDick

      I am afraid that the barbarity is a feature and not a bug for the denizens of my native state. We are a vengeful and vindictive lot.

  • Given that we have pols getting applause for advocating torture, I don’t see how this can be ended at this time.

    • Warren Terra

      Heck, getting applause for blaspheming in the advocacy of torture – and the smatterings of criticism from the Right have largely been about the blasphemy and not the torture!

      • Yeah. But she’s an entertainer, not a politician.

    • Jordan

      I dunno, can’t the AMA or whatever start leveling real punishments on doctors who participate?

      • Anon21

        Doctors don’t participate because the AMA would sanction them if they did. That’s part of the problem. (Not saying the AMA’s stance isn’t correct, just that it’s widely acknowledged that lack of trained medical supervision is one issue causing botched executions.)

        • Jordan

          See, that is what I thought too. But from the article:

          The execution began at 6:23 p.m., when officials began administering the first drug. A doctor declared Lockett to be unconscious at 6:33 p.m. At 6:39 — three minutes after Lockett began writing — a doctor lifted the sheet that was covering the inmate to examine the injection site. By that time, all three drugs had been administered.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            Saw that too, and wondered if it was misreported, or that the Dr’s role was not to administer the lethal cocktail, but to certify the condition (unconsciousness, death) of the inmate.

            Not that it’s a lot better, from a medical ethics point of view.

          • herr doktor bimler

            three minutes after Lockett began writing

            Either the AP journalists have broken the AP’s previous records for incompetence and stupid typos, or Lockett was a seriously committed blogger.

        • Jordan

          Oh also, That isn’t really the reason for botched executions. The procedure isn’t super complicated. If a state cared, they could easily pay to train some non-doctor to do it effectively and efficiently.

          The problem is the states don’t care enough to do that, and that they have a very hard time getting the drugs.

          • herr doktor bimler

            Are vets bound by ethical constraints? Or do they just charge too much?

        • Katya

          My understanding is that a doctor is there to pronounce the person dead, but doctors do not participate in the execution itself. Notice that “officials” administered the drugs.

    • DrS

      I saw this over at Digby’s

      There’s some positive trend lines. Not that it helps the non-zero number of innocents who will be killed even if the trends continue and there’s no guarantee they will continue.

      There’s more if you click on thru to the economist.

      • Jordan

        The protests at Huntsville that the Economist mentions are real gut-punches.

        At least it sounds like there aren’t pro-death-penalty “counter-protestors” there any more.

      • Origami Isopod

        That graph, “U.S. Public Opinions on the Death Penalty.” Gosh, I wonder whyever it may have begun to rise shortly after the Civil Rights era?

        • Origami Isopod

          For “it,” read “support for the DP”.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    I always wonder what the people who were in the viewing room think when something like that happens. actually, I wonder who they are, too

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Notice, in the NYT article, how they say that when things started to go bad, they immediately pulled the shades?

      Can’t have an “witnesses” to the state-sponsored death-by-torture, doncha know.

  • Warren Terra

    Not completely topical, but also in American jurisprudence, Antonin Scalia has been having one hell of a week, and it’s only Tuesday:

    The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the Clean Air Act is Constitutional, and the feds can regulate plumes of coal ash across state lines. Scalia (joined by Thomas) not only voted the other way, he railed against Marxism in his written opinion.

    And, today, the Court heard cases about whether the cops can search all digital records of your life if they pick you up for Attempted Jaywalking and you’re carrying a smartphone. Scalia was fine with this, saying “Our rule has been that if you carry it on your person, you ought to know it is subject to seizure and examination.”

    A third case heard today involved whether an employee can be punished for complying with a subpoena and testifying at a criminal trial. Signs point to “yes”, courtesy of Scalia and the Conservative majority.

    • John Revolta

      The pace of change, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, made the justices’ jobs very difficult.

      Boo freakin’ hoo.

      “I don’t,(have an iphone) either,” Justice Breyer responded, “because I can never get into it because of the password.”

      Good Gawd Almighty. And these are a couple of the YOUNGER ones.

      • rea

        Breyer is actually one of the older ones.

    • DrS

      Scalia was fine with this, saying “Our rule has been that if you carry it on your person, you ought to know it is subject to seizure and examination.”

      Which is entirely consistent with his position that perhaps a hand held missile launcher is protected under the 2nd. Cause its handheld, like a musket.

      It appears to me that the notion that it should be easier for corrupt cops to find information to blackmail someone than for the police to stop an imminent threat to public safety has a very strong and powerful voice in our judiciary.

    • Brandon

      The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the Clean Air Act is Constitutional, and the feds can regulate plumes of coal ash across state lines. Scalia (joined by Thomas) not only voted the other way, he railed against Marxism in his written opinion.

      He also apparently cited his own earlier opinion but got the actual result of the case completely wrong.

      http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/antonin-scalia-error-supreme-court-dissent-epa

      “This is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation. Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001), confronted EPA’s contention that it could consider costs in setting [National Ambient Air Quality Standards],” Scalia wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

      The problem: the EPA’s position in the 2001 case was exactly the opposite. The agency was defending its refusal to consider cost as a counter-weight to health benefits when setting certain air quality standards. It was the trucking industry that wanted the EPA to factor in cost. The 9-0 ruling sided with the EPA. The author of the ruling that Scalia mischaracterized? Scalia himself.

  • Nobdy

    People who like the death penalty are thirsty for blood, not justice. It’s barbaric and recent studies suggest a definitely non-trivial number of victims of state-sponsored murder are innocent. There is simply no excuse for killing someone who is already under state control and no longer a threat. Criminal Justice reform is easy to forget with everything else that needs to be reformed, but considering how many prisoners America has and how many people go through the prison system, it’s DESPERATELY needed.

    I can forgive the family of victims of heinous crimes for wanting revenge, that’s just human, but everyone else? It’s primitive thinking and a lot of you are disgusting in your thirst for blood and death.

    • somethingblue

      It’s barbaric and recent studies suggest a definitely non-trivial number of victims of state-sponsored murder are innocent.

      Surely “one” would be non-trivial?

      • Nobdy

        You can’t make a pile of corpses without murdering a few innocents.

  • Jordan

    And, of course, there was another inmate scheduled to be executed in the exact same manner and in the exact same place two hours later.

    • JMP

      And of course, they were both black men. What do you think the chances are that either of them would have been given a death sentence if they committed the exact same crimes, but were white?

      • Jordan

        Less than the chance that someone given the death penalty is innocent.

      • jeer9

        That justice is a blind goddess
        Is a thing to which we black are wise.
        Her bandage hides two festering sores
        That once perhaps were eyes.

        – Langston Hughes

  • Karen

    “A four-time felon, Lockett, 38, was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999 after Neiman and a friend arrived at a home the men were robbing.”

    Please remember what the bastard did to get the death penalty before wasting tears on him. The reason to oppose the death penalty — and the only one — is that it is irremediable if it’s wrong. There is no rehabilitation for people who commit crimes like this one. That girl can’t be “unmurdered” and I really don’t care very much that a guy who buried a girl ALIVE hurt in his final moments.

    • Nobdy

      There is no rehabilitation for people who commit crimes like this one.

      Have you ever dealt with prisoners? This is untrue. People are more than the worst thing they ever did. What he did was horrible and unforgiveable but he is still a human being.

      We as a society should be better than he was. More forgiving. More loving. More merciful. We should not sink to his level.

      • Karen

        So what do we do with this guy? Letting him breathe free air again is like pissing on that girl’s grave. Her family will celebrate birthdays and holidays by taking a wreathe to a graveyard. Why should we be kinder to the guy who put her there?

        • Nobdy

          Leave him in prison for the rest of his life.

          Killing him will not bring her back. It will not undo his horrible crime. From jail he could do some good (though he also might not.)

          There’s no way to make life fair by killing him. The unfairness was already done when a young, innocent, life was snuffed out. We don’t balance the ledger by consciously and under no duress snuffing out the life of another sentient being. Inflicting pain on him doesn’t undo the hurt he has inflicted, it just compounds it.

          • CD

            Exactly. You don’t make the horrible unhorrible by adding more horrible.

        • Anonymous

          Letting him breathe free air again is like pissing on that girl’s grave.

          Says you.

          • Vance Maverick

            Yeah, I’ll even post the same under my own name. We did not owe her his death, and it has not expunged the atrocity.

            • witless chum

              Yeah. I mean, there’s literally no justice possible for her or the people who loved her because justice would be her alive and free. What that means for what we should do to her murderer, I honestly haven’t figured out, but I don’t have any desire to sink to or below his level to punish him.

        • Tristan

          Letting him breathe free air again is like pissing on that girl’s grave.

          I would quite happily literally do just that if it meant the state didn’t get to torture a man to death and just say ‘oops!’

        • dick tracy

          We should be kinder to the guy that killed somebody than he was to his victim because we are better people than he is. At least I am. You obviously are not.

        • Ed

          Who said that Lockett should have gone free? (And in case you haven’t noticed, the law is not, or should not be, an instrument of personal vengeance.) The issue here is what the state does in our name against Lockett, not the crimes of which Lockett was convicted.

        • Guggenheim Swirly

          Why should we be kinder to the guy who put her there?

          Interesting. My definition of “being kind” doesn’t include locking someone away in prison for the rest of his life. But your mileage may vary, I suppose.

    • There are other reasons to oppose it, that have nothing to do with the character of the people scheduled for death: (1) I don’t want the U.S. to be a country that practices barbarism and this is one of several forms we do practice. (2) In order to have any real protection against wrong outcomes, we have to waste enormous amounts of time and effort on every case. (3) It distorts the criminal justice system even worse than it already is distorted. You have the feds seeking death in states where it’s not used, you have the racial gap in sentences made even more extreme, you have innocent people pleading guilty because they’re unwilling to roll the dice with their lives.

      I’m not defending Lockett when I say that IMO this is a fucking travesty.

      • djw

        And (2a) those efforts still fail with some regularity.

        • N__B

          At least ten percent, if I remember the numbers right.

    • DrS

      I’ve heard a variation on that argument for every death row case, even past the point of quite conclusive exoneration.

      And you’re wrong, there is another reason to end it: the toll it takes on the executioner and others who participate directly in the killing, albeit justified and state sanctioned, of another human being.

      • DrS

        You folks type faster than me. Even the one with claws.

    • It’s not about who he is, it’s about who we are.

      • Yeah, sure. Say what I said stronger and more succinctly.

    • JMP

      Fuck that shit. I don’t care what the guy did, this is a barbarous and disgusting way for the state to murder someone. Which is itself barbarous and disgusting.

      The only reason to support the death penalty is being a cruel, vengeance-driven ass who delights in the suffering of others.

      • Patrick Phelan

        Yeah – even if one supports the death penalty (which I don’t; barbarous and disgusting about sums it up to me), it’s still far from beyond the pale to point out that current methods are prone to vicious, torturous error. Because even in the most death penalty prone areas of the world, I don’t think anyone does hanging, drawing, and quartering any more. It’s pretty simple to make the argument “even if we do kill, we don’t torture”.

        • Guggenheim Swirly

          I don’t think anyone does hanging

          I was under the impression that this is still an option that condemned prisoners can “choose” in a handful of states.

          • Guggenheim Swirly

            Delaware apparently is the last state to execute someone by hanging, and that was 18 years ago. But apparently it’s an option in New Hampshire (corrections officials’ option) and Washington state (prisoner’s option).

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_States#Methods

            • Patrick Phelan

              Oh, I meant the full “hanging, drawing, and quartering” torture-filled horrorshow.

              If it was just hanging or lethal injection, then if I was assured a competent executioner, I might pick hanging. But if it’s the full “and NOW we move on to stage TWO of our horrific murder pageant”, then, yes, please give me the horrible poison, that should be fine.

    • Jordan

      The reason to oppose the death penalty — and the only one — is that it is irremediable if it’s wrong

      Bullshit. You should also oppose the death penalty because it is (and always will be) disproportionately applied against the poor and people of color.

      I also think you should also oppose the death penalty because the state should never kill someone in cold blood. But I suppose this line doesn’t work on Texans (NOTE: have lived in texas, my partner is texan, don’t care).

      There is no rehabilitation for people who commit crimes like this one.

      Bullshit. There may be people who actually do commit these crimes who can’t be “rehabilitated.” There certainly are others who can.

      • José Arcadio Buendía

        Rehabilitation is just one part of the equation. I think you get a lot more vigilantism/vendettas if people don’t feel crime is adequately punished.

        I’m not for the death penalty, I just am not for ever releasing a murderer and saying, here, you got a GED and a correspondence degree, go live a life. Fuck that.

        • Jordan

          Nope. I don’t even believe in a life sentence.

          15ish year max sentence with a rolling 1,2 or 5 year extension based upon evaluated likelihood of recidivism.

          As for this all leading to vigilantism: lolno. That may make sense in your mind, but there isn’t any evidence that it is true. It is really a different thing.

          • Karen

            Do you really think 15 years is enough for burying a 19 year old girl alive? That someone who does something as heinous as this at, say, 20, should walk out a free man at age 35? Have a family? Celebrate holidays? When has eliminated the possibility of those things for his victim? And you think I’m cold blooded?

            • Nobdy

              Were you the same person at 35 that you were at 20?

              • Karen

                I didn’t kill anyone then. This can’t be undone. Why should the guy who did it be rewarded?

                • Nobdy

                  Rewarded? In this scenario he spent 15 years in prison.

                  The word you are looking for is not rewarded. It is forgiven. Or given a second chance.

                  The answer is because he’s alive, life is for the living, and keeping him in jail doesn’t help his victim.

                  It’s not fair, but fairness is impossible. What’s importance is deterence and prevention. At 35 he is past prime crime age and will likely not kill anyone else, and he still has a life to live, no matter how horrible what he did was.

                • Jordan

                  Because, yeah, “being in prison for 15 years” = “being rewarded”.

                • Tristan

                  I didn’t kill anyone then.

                  Wow, this just took a sinister turn.

                • Brandon

                  15 years minimum with a rolling review. Someone like Charles Manson would never get out.

                  FWIW this is pretty much the situation Anders Brevik faces in Norway. I think their max sentence is 21 years, but you can continue to be held indefinitely based on reviews and evaluations after that.

              • Karen

                Seriously, think about this girl’s family. How do you think they would react to seeing the man who killed her in a particularly brutal manner having a picnic? Eating ice cream? He can’t bring her back, but if he really understands what he did and is genuinely remorseful, he would never seek to be released. Nothing he could ever do could make up for what he did.

                • Anonymous

                  Can you stop calling her a girl, please?

                  You’re not doing your (admittedly barbarous) cause any favors with these fantasies about picnics being witnessed by the woman’s family. Punishment and incarceration for being found guilty of committing crimes has nothing to do with making the victims or their families feel better. You know this already.

                • Jordan

                  I don’t know. Probably they would feel terrible. Maybe they wouldn’t.

                  What I do know: this has absolutely no relevance to whether the state should murder someone, or whether the state should permanently incarcerate someone.

                • Nobdy

                  First of all, if he’s not cruel he won’t go where the family is, and I doubt anyone would object to a law preventing him from living within 100 miles of them.

                  Secondly, nothing he can do can make up for what he did, INCLUDING SPENDING THE REST OF HIS LIFE IN PRISON. Given that it won’t undo his act, it’s a waste of a life that’s still here in this world. If sacrificing his life could undo his actions a lot more people would support the death penalty. Likewise leaving him in prison for his whole life won’t accomplish anything but revenge.

                • EH

                  You watch too much TV.

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  “Seriously, think about the American Public. How do you think they would react to seeing the man who killed and tortured innocents in a particularly brutal manner having a picnic? Eating ice cream? He can’t bring them back, but if he really understands what he did and is genuinely remorseful, he would never seek to be released. Nothing he could ever do could make up for what he did.”

                  And yet Dubya walks around free, eating ice cream, presumably.

                  Kill one innocent person while blah, and you’re a horrible criminal that deserves to be put to death. Kill 100,000 while a white Texan, and it’s just a statistic, and you can swagger away into the sunset.

                  F’n justice, how DOES it work?

                • Guggenheim Swirly

                  You watch too much TV.

                  I was thinking along the same lines.

            • Jordan

              Yes. 15 years in prison is a very long, very brutal time.

              And yes, I think you are cold blooded.

          • southend

            Look, I’m opposed to the death penalty. Period. But 15 yrs for what this PoS was convicted of doing? (And if they indeed did what they are convicted of doing, yes, he and his accomplices are most certainly pieces of shit). Seriously? Sorry, but if a mentally competent adult commits this kind of crime, you’ve forfeited your chance to ever live free among non-murdering people. Life with no parole is not a violation of the 8th amendment.

            • Jordan

              Why? What purpose does it serve to keep that person in jail for the rest of their life? Whatever punishment or vengeance or retribution you are after should be satisfied by 15 years in a brutal american prison. I think that is sufficient to satisfy the bloodlust.

              After that? The inmate is a different person than they were 15 years ago. What further purpose does it serve to keep them in prison for the rest of their life?

              • southend

                Why 15? Why not 10? Or 5?

                • Jordan

                  Well, one reason is that you are a very different person than you were 15 years ago to a degree that isn’t true for 5 years.

                  Another reason is that deterrence *is* a thing. 15 years is (probably, but maybe not) a deterrent that 5 years is not.

                  But as for the specific time, I don’t really care or know. I’d like 15. If 10 is actually doable, sure, I’ll take that after I get my fleet of flying ponies.

              • southend

                Not trying to be a jerk here, but let me get this straight: You’re saying 15 yrs no matter how many victims or how heinous the crime? Does this 15 yr limit include those guilty of genocide? In your estimation, perpetrators of the most heinous or prolific mass murders would be “re-evaluated” at 15 yrs to determine if they were now “changed people”? Just trying to ascertain what you’re really advocating here.

                • Jordan

                  Well, I’m just talking about the domestic criminal justice system.

                  But if I’m supposed to be talking about genocidal dictators for some reason, then sure, if allowing an exception for them is a way of securing a more just and humane system I suppose that sounds all right.

                  Totally as an aside, you *do* know that Milosevic got a 13 year sentence, right?

                • Lurker

                  And in Finland, we did convict a man for Rwandan genocide and he got a a life sentence. He will be eligible for parole after 12 years, like everyone else, but the court of appeals that acts as a parole board will make a case-by-case determination whether the convict xan be freed. This will happen every two years until the convict dies or is paroled.

                  We have no cases of vigilantism, even if we free people with life sentences regularly aftetr 14-16 years of time served. Most typically, the family is no longer overcome by grief at that point and has moved on with their lives.

                  The prisoners, however, tell that an indeterminate sentence is a horrible thing to endure. You don’t know the date of freedom, so you can’t count days and there is a clearly non-zero chance of dying in prison.

                • Jordan

                  ha! I *almost* made a “Lurker” shoutout to ask his opinion here in my last post.

                • rea

                  in Finland, we did convict a man for Rwandan genocide and he got a a life sentence. He will be eligible for parole after 12 years, like everyone else, but the court of appeals that acts as a parole board will make a case-by-case determination whether the convict xan be freed. This will happen every two years until the convict dies or is paroled.

                  And you know, Manson has been eliglble for parole for quite a while now. Doesn’t mean he’s going to be released on parole any time soon.

            • Nobdy

              Reasonable people can disagree on the number of years. Life in prison is far less barbaric than state sponsored murder.

              • Jordan

                Exactly right on both counts.

            • Brandon

              Not everyone convicted of murder gets life without parole.

              • Linnaeus

                Depending on the particular murder, I imagine. I know someone convicted of second-degree murder; he got 35-75 years and is eligible for parole in 2016, I believe.

        • Linnaeus

          One way we could test that is by comparing how different countries penalize crimes and see which nations have higher incidences of vigilantism.

          And I wouldn’t worry too much about punishments in the US being overly lenient, given 30+ years of “getting tough”.

          • Nobdy

            In Scandanavian countries, where sentences are much softer, you so much as jaywalk and a Sven or Gunter will gun you down where you stand, so terrified are they that you will not be properly punished.

            • Arouet

              I hear Putin say some asshole littering without fear of lengthy imprisonment during his last visit to Sevastopol, and we’ve all seen how that turned out.

    • Hob

      Do you seriously think that people who are against the death penalty for other reasons are simply unaware that some people have committed horrible crimes? Really, what is the purpose of this constant refrain of “Make sure you don’t feel any pity for this evil guy– you must only care about the innocent”? Even if someone is beyond rehabilitation, you’ve offered no reason why we must kill him rather than keep him in prison. Are we supposed to want revenge?

      • Hob

        Never mind, I type too slow– I see above that you do just want revenge and don’t seem to care about much else.

        • Karen

          You’re right. I’m not so enlightened that I have abandoned vengeance. Some crimes deserve it.

          Too often liberals forget that it isn’t only criminals who are poor; so are crime victims, especially victims of violent crime. Locking up violent scumbags forever is probably the best option, but please don’t waste any tears on them. They forfeited the right to public sympathy when they decided to kill people.

          • Linnaeus

            Locking up violent scumbags forever is probably the best option, but please don’t waste any tears on them. They forfeited the right to public sympathy when they decided to kill people.

            Understanding that someone has committed a heinous crime and holding him or her accountable for it does not require that we must accept any and all harm that could be inflicted on that person.

          • Joanna

            Lol.

          • Locking up violent scumbags forever is probably the best option, but please don’t waste any tears on them.

            Okay. Who was?

            • It sounds like the bleeding heart accusation, which neo-cons like to use when people tell them to stop leaping up and down shouting “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

              People who don’t agree with Karen’s views on the DP must be wasting tears on the criminals because they’re a bunch of softies who feel pity for these guys and don’t or won’t understand just how horrible they are. It couldn’t be that we simply don’t like the fucking DP and think it is barbaric.

              • p.s. I apologize for the F-bomb. Crude language has no place in a discussion about state-sponsored murder.

          • GeoX

            I’m not so enlightened that I have abandoned vengeance.

            Well, if you’re capable of admitting that about yourself, maybe you’re capable of recognizing that it’s a character flaw (albeit the one of the most common ones around) and working on moving away from it?

      • sparks

        Some want to appear cold and hard and objective. Underneath that is sometimes vicarious pleasure in seeing someone they consider trash being killed. When they don’t have to do the killing they can abstract away any humanity.

    • José Arcadio Buendía

      I think the death penalty should go away. I’m not a big fan of the current 8th Amendment jurisprudence because implicit in it is that if our definition of cruel and unusual can evolve, it can evolve backwards as well. I also think that Constitutional/Court action on things should really be the last resort. They make up enough bullshit as it is. But I’m not going to be buttmad if the Court does it. A win is a win is a win.

      But, really, I have very little sympathy for the criminals and I worry that punishments that are too soft for society to accept will just increase vigilante/retaliatory violence, one thing liberals especially seem to forget as an element of the justice system.

      Innocent people are going to be convicted. If you’ve ever served on a jury, you probably know that the real reasons juries convict people are almost unimaginably horrible. We should improve that. And yes, you can’t resurrect someone who got the death penalty. But you can’t give people back years in prison either.

      We live in a society where people will vomit if they see how the dinner they eat is killed, will piss themselves if they were in a war they send people to fight, and would lose their shit entirely if they had to execute the people they sentence themselves.

      Maybe we ought to have to watch it and if we can’t stomach it, it should go away.

      • Arouet

        I’m not a big fan of the current 8th Amendment jurisprudence because implicit in it is that if our definition of cruel and unusual can evolve, it can evolve backwards as well.

        Uh…. by your originalist logic we would be static at the time of the founding. I’m not sure there’s much further backwards to go than flogging, branding, and executions for “arson, piracy, treason, murder, sodomy, burglary, robbery, rape, horse-stealing, slave rebellion, and often counterfeiting,” so color me unconvinced that that’s a justification to shun an evolving standards-of-decency approach to the 8th Amendment.

        • Jordan

          Yeah, right?

          “I am uncomfortable with allowing things to become better. Because then we could allow them to become worse. So things should just stay bad”.

        • djw

          Yeah, I struggle to see how we could plausibly interpret the word ‘unusual’ without a recognition of evolving specific content, unless we think the men who wrote it were dumb enough to assume crime and punishment would undergo no further changes after 1789.

          • rea

            More specifically, the founders had pretty much all been guilty of treason against Great Britain, punishible by the laws then on the books by (for men) partial strangulation, disembowelment, castration, dismemberment, and eventual beheading, or (for women) burning at the stake. These pnishments, due to their cruelty, had gone right out of fashion during the lives of some of the older founders, but because they were still the law, could still have been inflicted if the British government had insisted (and found people willing to carry them out). I rather suspect that, due to their personal situations if nothing else, the founders were accutely conscious of this possibility, and enacted the 8th Amendment precisely with the evolving standard of decency they personally observed in mind.

        • Origami Isopod

          I’m not sure there’s much further backwards to go than flogging, branding, and executions

          Well, to be fair, we haven’t revived drawing and quartering yet, nor has any intellectual leading light published a book suggesting we do.

          • N__B

            We lack a sufficient number of horses.

      • Origami Isopod

        Maybe we ought to have to watch it and if we can’t stomach it, it should go away.

        Too many people will be able to stomach it. Remember, executions were public entertainment/”edification” for centuries. And then there were lynchings.

    • Karen

      I don’t support the death penalty, but my opposition is based entirely in the fact that it’s too expensive and it can’t be perfect. Even discounting the possibility of wrong convictions, there is the fact that capital sentences are too often based on confessions by co-conspirators who have a strong incentive — staying alive — in naming the other guys as the actual killers. There are other cases where everyone knows the actual killer skates and deliberately names some poor schmuck co-conspirator who gets the death penalty.

      I will cop to being disgusted by the raptures of emotion Helen Prejean slathered on her vicious murdering crushes and the complete lack of any feelings for the victims she displayed. Reading “Dead Men Walking” probably kept me in favor of capital punishment for 10 years.

      • Anonymous

        You’re getting angry because other commenters don’t want the state to hideously murder people while, in the same breath, confessing that a book pissed you off so much that you were willing to hold to some very bloodthirsty “ideals” just to spite its author?

      • dick tracy

        Wow. You really are one sick bitch. Get therapy before you hurt somebody and find yourself at the mercy of people just like you.

        • witless chum

          No need to get your sexism in your outrage at someone’s moral bankruptcy, dick.

          • Origami Isopod

            +1

    • somethingblue

      The reason to oppose the death penalty — and the only one — is that it is irremediable if it’s wrong.

      No, really not.

      • Zombies of the Apocolypse

        Oh, there’s a remedy. You won’t like it one little bit.

    • Arouet

      and the only one

      1. It’s irremediable if the person executed is innocent
      2. It’s immoral for the state to kill in vengeance
      3. It’s even more expensive than LWOP
      4. It’s an ineffective deterrent
      5. It makes us look awful and barbarous to the international community
      6. It’s imposed in a racially disproportionate manner
      7. You shouldn’t put the families of the convicted through the same thing that girl’s family went through
      8. The convicts may not actually be irredeemable

      Those are just the reasons I can come up with off the top of my head.

      • Origami Isopod

        Perhaps this should go elsewhere in this thread, but there are victims of extremely violent crimes and relatives of murder victims who oppose the death penalty, so state-sanctioned murder “in the name of the victims” is not accurate either.

    • DrDick

      It is also the case that it is now estimated that at least 4% of all capital convictions are wrongful. I have no sympathy for this gentleman if he did it, but that does not give the state the right to murder him. Two wrongs do not make a right, as my mama always said. He is also exactly the sort of person likely to be wrongly convicted.

    • No, I object to killing people, period. The thought of a justice system based around primitive ideas of revenge gives decent people the horrors. I also think it is dandy if we can avoid violating the 8th Amendment.

  • MikeJake

    Disturbingly, this sort of punishment has become less and less unusual.

  • MarkusR

    Where I live people won’t give a shit.

    And I try–TRY–not to listen to those sociopaths.

  • Frank Somatra

    The death penalty is awful, and as our criminal justice system currently operates, is both immoral and unconstitutional. But, given that this is not going to change anytime soon:

    Why do we bother with this triple cocktail to kill someone? If we’re going to do it, would a couple grams of hydrocodone not work instead? It isn’t that expensive and is about as painless as anything could be…

    • Tristan

      It varies state to state, and there’s been increasing adoption of the more sane one-drug approach. The ‘cocktail’ approach was in part popularized by noted holocaust denier, unqualified scientist, and general massive asshole Fred Leuchter, who set up a nice racket for himself in the 1980s by bluffing his way into being an expert witness who would testify to the inhumanity of any execution apparatus that was not purchased from him.

    • Jordan

      But, given that this is not going to change anytime soon:

      Universal abolition probably won’t happen soon. But the trends are all favorable: fewer executions than ever, more states banning executions than ever, better demographics (fewer old white people, more young/black/hispanic people).

      There is no reason that California, Oregon, Washington, and New Hampshire couldn’t ban it soon. Southern states and shitty mid-north states might be a long time coming, but you could also see south dakota, montana, idaho, and wyoming getting rid of it for purely pragmatic reasons.

      And all it would take is for the Mormon church to say “Nope” to get rid of it in Utah, Idaho (again) or Nevada; and would at least help push it over the edge in California or Arizona.

      • The prophet Nostradumbass

        As recently as 2012, there was an initiative on the ballot in California to abolish the death penalty in the state. It lost.

        • Jordan

          Right. But it was pretty close. So in the near term it is definitely doable.

          • The prophet Nostradumbass

            I would like to think so, but I’m not so optimistic.

            • Jordan

              Well, I’m not making a prediction necessarily.

              But, say, give 6 years of demographic change + continued democratic control of the legislature and governorship? Its not exactly unlikely to get those 2 percentage points.

    • herr doktor bimler

      If we’re going to do it, would a couple grams of hydrocodone not work instead?

      The question has come up in previous threads. IIRC, the consensus from people with experience of euthanasia was that a decent overdose of morphine or heroin is perfectly serviceable. The trouble is that although the client’s mind is comfortable watching the lights go out, the body does not get the memo, and behaves in an unbecoming way, gasping for breath and struggling to resist the respiratory paralysis. This is stressful for onlookers. Hence the muscle relaxant component of the triple cocktail… it is only there for the benefit of the audience, allowing them to congratulate themselves on their benevolence and humanity.

  • Ken

    Strict constitutionalists have no problem with this because of the word “and”. To be forbidden, it has to be both cruel and unusual. So once it’s not unusual, it passes Constitutional muster.

    (My brain feels unclean. So does my soul. Never try to think like Alito and Scalia.)

    • DrS

      That’s the thought process. Also, can I borrow your brain bleach when you’re done with it?

    • Informant

      I realize that this might be too difficult for your poor unclean brain to grasp, but all punishments are, by definition, “cruel” (“causing pain or suffering”) or they aren’t actually punishments. Locking someone in a jail cell for a single day is “cruel” — it causes suffering by deprivation of freedom. If cruelty alone were sufficient to render a punishment unconstitutional, then no criminal penalty that caused more than a trivial inconvenience could ever be lawfully imposed.

      • Jordan

        all punishments are, by definition, “cruel” (“causing pain or suffering”) or they aren’t actually punishments.

        Nope. Try again!

      • Lurker

        If you go down that road, you’ll meet Heinlein on your way. He argued that all punishments should be both cruel and unusual. Cruel because physical pain is, according to his pseudo-scientific blabbering, a good way to condition people not to break law. Unusual because crime should be so rare that the punishments are only seldom administered.

        I don’t buy that line of thought, but it has at least the merit of being unusual. :-)

  • DrS

    Even being raised in an extremely conservative, catholic Christian household, I will never understand people who claim to be devout Christians and support the death penalty. I cannot reconcile it. And I’m not associated in any way currently with a Christian church, and consider myself a spiritual agnostic, so perhaps I’m just getting it wrong.

    Christians say that humans are imperfect beings. Hard to edit that bit out. Many Christians wear a cross around their necks every day to remind them of Jesus’ suffering while dying on the cross, for their sins. How, with that literal reminder can we send even one innocent into utter torment.

    I mean, Jesus Christ.

    • DAS

      Many Christians assume Jesus was innocent and forget that, if Jesus was the messiah, he was guilty of high treason against Rome.

  • This is the same Oklahoma Supreme Court that law that enabled the combination given was unconstitutional two or three days ago, only to be told by the Governor that she didn’t give a flying **** what they said and threatened with impeachment by the Oklahoma House?

    Waiting for tomorrow. But it is tomorrow now.

    • JMP

      Gov. Fallin just pulled a full-on Andrew Jackson, just flat out refusing to obey a stay ruling from the OK Supreme Court – one issued for time to investigate if the method was actually humane. She’s a criminal governor now. And now she says she wants an investigation of the botched execution, when she can find the person most directly responsible for this by fucking looking in a mirror.

      Why does the GOP have such a hate for the rule of law, and the Constitution, anyway?

      • Arouet

        From what I understand, the court actually issued an order denying the challenge in any case. If it hadn’t, I’m no expert, but I have to think there’s a 14th amendment Due Process claim to be made there…

        • Frank Somatra

          Oklahoma, stupidly enough, has two supreme courts. And they are fighting for jurisdiction to issue contrary results on this one. So of course the governor is going to side with the one that backs her position.

          • Ed

            Starting as a farmer with a brand new wife-
            Soon be livin’ in a brand new state!
            Brand new state – gonna treat you great!
            Gonna bring you barley, carrots and pertaters,
            Pasture for the cattle, spinich and termaters,
            Flowers on the prarie where the June bugs zoom,
            Plen’y of air and plen’y of room,
            Plen’y of room to swing a rope!
            Plen’y of heart and plen’y of hope.

            Well, Hammerstein got the rope swinging right part. Of course, the rope would be more humane than what Lockett got.

      • bexley

        …she says she wants an investigation of the botched execution, when she can find the person most directly responsible for this by fucking looking in a mirror.

        She’s got to protect her phoney baloney job.

    • That’s actually the thing that surprised me the most. I already knew the death penalty was barbarous and wrong and unjust — but a governor refusing to obey a legal order from the state supreme court? The legislature threatening to impeach the supreme court for the crime of angering the governor? And the supreme court basically cowering and begging forgiveness? That’s fucking insane.

  • pete

    A society that allows its poorest to die coughing under the bridges is hardly one to pick nits about the method of murdering that the state allows. I want a kinder and more just and empathetic society, and I accept that any steps in that direction are going to be met, quite understandably, with the objection that some other atrocity is more worthy of attention first. Maybe we should stop killing foreign strangers; or feed our own hungry; or let our indigent elderly have a life of modest comfort. Or maybe we should abolish the death penalty. I’m in favor of all moves in the direction of a more humane world, and I am a firm believer that incremental steps will build on each other, in the direction of a better society. Karen, I sympathize with your pain and anger, but I disagree with you. Better, I think, that as a society we do not kill. I hope we can respectfully agree to disagree.

    • Karen

      Thanks. I agree with you. I wish Bush, Cheney and company were locked up for war crimes. It would be a better world if Lockett were still alive and facing 50 – 60 years of staring at a cinder block wall instead of dying like he did. I do think that the pursuit of that more just and safe society has to include punishing individual people who commit violent crimes. By all means — and I do mean ALL — ensure that everyone has health care, food, an education, leisure time, mental health treatment, and an income, but even once those things are guaranteed there will still be a few monsters like Lockett or McVeigh who just like killing people, and less evil people who can’t see why the rules about property ownership apply to them. Those losers will still need to be punished.

      Also, please remember that oligarchs are never victims of crime. The poor and powerless are far more often crime victims. Keeping its most vulnerable citizens safe from physical harm is the absolute least a government can do. The most effective way to do that is locking up the people who have already demonstrated a propensity for violence, and in the case of killers, locking them up forever.

      • UserGoogol

        Posing it as a conflict between the interests of the criminal and the interests of the victim is a red herring. Nothing we do to the criminal can undo the crime, so the victim is completely irrelevant. If you want to help the victim, help the victim. Don’t take it out on the criminal. That’s just making a bad situation worse.

  • Rania

    I am a humanist atheist but I advocate the law “an eye for an eye”, the articles written about the botched execution fail to mention the crimes the culprit was responsible for, thinking about the extent of this crime, the agony this poor girl had to endure, and the agony her bereaved parents had to endure, I can’t help but lose any bit of sympathy I might have had for this murderer.

    • I am a humanist pancake but I advocate the law “a pancake for a pancake”, the articles written about the botched pancake fail to mention the pancakes the culprit was responsible for, thinking about the extent of this pancake, the agony this poor pancake had to endure, and the pancakes her bereaved parents had to endure, I can’t help but lose any bit of pancakes I might have had for this pancake.

      • N__B

        I am a humanist pancake

        Spongecake Roundpants?

        • Origami Isopod

          By the dictates of Rule 34, as soon as you typed those two words, porn of Spongecake Roundpants, er, sprang into existence somewhere on the series of tubes.

          • N__B

            Boing!

    • witless chum

      Do the articles also fail to mention that Lockett breathed oxygen until he didn’t? Because I think it’s fair to assume that anyone on death row probably committed a horrible crime. Usually. Why that justifies the people of Oklahoma committing a similar crime is the part that you actually have to explain.

    • DAS

      OK. Please be honest then and start a campaign to get rid of the eighth amendment then.

      BTW, I come from the religious tradition that brought you “an eye for an eye”. My religion has long held that the verse is NOT to be taken literally but should only mean that a system of proportionate punishments (based largely on floggings and fines) be used. Also “an eye for an eye” means that you don’t have an additional punishment if the victim is rich or a lesser punishment if the perp is poor.

    • El Guapo

      And therefore we must do equally bad things to the perpetrator because, um, justice. Does having the state kill him generate sufficient health points to fill up her parents’ depleted heart meter?

    • sparks

      So, you are for torture killing? I’m guessing you make those human-shaped pancakes, then stab and carefully rip pieces off while eating, while fantasizing that the strawberry syrup on them is blood.

    • Wow. Did you just give atheists a black eye!

    • Joe

      The article linked by Scott “fails to mention the crimes” this way:

      A four-time felon, Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999 after Neiman and a friend arrived at a home the men were robbing.

      Anyway, it is not about “sympathy” for murderers at the end of the day alone though you claim to be a “humanist” so minimum standards (unless you are full of shit) should matter to you even there. But, how we all should act, including when punishing heinous people.

      Not that I think many whose loved ones die really care much or have their “agony” helped much (some say so, I can’t tell what is really in their hearts) if the person is executed of (as is the case in the vast number of horrible murderers) locked in prison for long periods of time.

      • Joe

        should be “executed or”

    • I am a humanist atheist but I advocate the law “an eye for an eye”

      That word “humanist,” I don’t think, etc.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll just leave this here:

    From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years, I have endeavored — indeed, I have struggled — along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed.

    J. Harry Blackmun Callins v. James, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994) [dissent from denial of certiori]

  • Karate Bearfighter

    Late to this discussion, but just thought this should be mentioned — Lockett’s mitigation evidence at the penalty phase:

    Mr. Lockett’s mitigation evidence focused on his childhood trauma. He presented testimony from three family members (his stepmother, aunt, and uncle) and two expert witnesses. Family members testified that Mr. Lockett’s mother abandoned him when he
    was three years old and that he was devastated by this abandonment. They testified that after this abandonment, the young Mr. Lockett became extremely attached to his father and idolized him. But Mr. Lockett’s father was abusive and a poor role model. His father severely abused him physically, forced him to use drugs beginning at age three, encouraged sexual activity, and watched pornographic movies in front of him when he was very young. These family members also testified that Mr. Lockett’s father was a
    criminal who taught him to steal and punished him if he was caught. Finally, family members testified that Mr. Lockett was likely sexually abused by his older brother and that he sucked his thumb and wet the bed until he was 12.

    From the 10th Circuit opinion denying Lockett’s habeas appeals. The opinion goes on to note that because of a ruling limiting a social worker’s testimony,

    the jury did not hear certain facts about Mr. Lockett’s childhood that were not introduced through other sources. For example, jurors did not hear that Mr. Lockett’s father threatened him with a gun when he was a child or that this father taught him “that women are ‘no good’ and exist only to ‘do what you wish.’” They also did not hear that Mr. Lockett’s mother used drugs while pregnant with him or that he experienced a bad fall and concussion as a child. Furthermore, the jury was not able to hear Ms. Turner’s opinion that there “was a direct connection between [Mr.] Lockett’s abusive background and his crimes.”

    As Nobdy said above, people are more than the worst thing they have ever done. A lot of factors went into making Clayton Lockett a person who could commit those crimes.

    • Joe

      Thanks for that. It is a bit ironic that Lockett v. Ohio back in the 1970s (in an opinion by Warren Burger) noted the importance of providing a full accounting of he persons when they decide what penalty is required:

      The need for treating each defendant in a capital case with that degree of respect due the uniqueness of the individual is far more important than in noncapital cases. A variety of flexible techniques — probation, parole, work furloughs, to name a few — and various postconviction remedies may be available to modify an initial sentence of confinement in noncapital cases. The nonavailability of corrective or modifying mechanisms with respect to an executed capital sentence underscores the need for individualized consideration as a constitutional requirement in imposing the death sentence

      Even strong supporters of the death penalty often decide in specific cases that is not warranted when it is their responsibility to decide. Knowing what will affect them after the fact is pretty hard to determine, so often not doing a good enough job is upheld on appeal.

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