Surely the ghastly details of Tuesday’s botched execution attempt of an Oklahoma man sentenced to death will persuade Kentucky and other states that still execute people, as well as the federal government, to put an end to this primitive effort to mete out justice.
Strapped onto a prison gurney, as horrified witnesses looked on, Clayton D. Lockett writhed in agony, groaned and appeared to struggle before corrections officials, realizing the execution attempt was failing, closed curtains to the chamber and cut off sound.
About 40 minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
“Tortured to death,” was how a lawyer who witnessed the event described it to The New York Times.
Yet 32 states, Kentucky included, continue to cling to the death penalty as the ultimate punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
That’s despite clear evidence that it is applied disproportionately to poor and minority defendants, that it is little deterrent to anyone bent on murder — one claimed purpose — and that innocent people are sentenced to die and some are executed.
His crime of murder was horrific —Lockett was convicted of sexually assaulting and shooting Stephanie Neiman, 18, then burying her while she was still alive after she and a friend walked in on a 1999 home invasion and robbery.
But if the goal of criminal justice is to show we, as a people, are better than those we hold accountable, we have failed.
A bipartisan pair of lawmakers from the General Assembly stepped forward this year with proposed legislation to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky and replace it with sentences of up to life in prison without parole for those convicted of what would qualify as capital offenses.
Rep. David Floyd, a Bardstown Republican, was the primary sponsor of House Bill 330. In the Senate, Sen. Gerald Neal, a Louisville Democrat, was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 77. Both bills also would have commuted sentences for those on death row to life without parole.
But in a legislature where so many lawmakers boast of being “pro-life,” both bills met with utter bipartisan indifference.
Neal and Floyd had the courage to call for an end to state-sanctioned killing of human beings.
Who will join them?
— Courier-Journal, Louisville