The Norman Transcript

Columns

May 3, 2014

Remember the cruel, unusual death

NORMAN — Let me, for a brief moment, put on my lawyer’s hat. The Eighth Amendment barring cruel and unusual punishment is not a suggestion. It is a mandate carved in stone. We do not torture, we do not cause undue suffering, we do not stretch the bounds of humanity in the name of vengeance.

Now let me toss that hat to the side.

The merits of the death penalty have been and will continue to be debated as long as justice is viewed through a personal prism. I believe that a society must impose the most draconian punishment for the most heinous crimes, otherwise we do violence to the humanity of the victim. Others have a legitimate, heartfelt and sober belief that the government has no right to essentially “murder” one of its citizens.

This concern for process, which is important, shouldn’t turn our focus away from the fundamental issue: Capital punishment is legal and constitutional; cold-blooded murder of innocents is not.

News reports about the 43-minute execution of Clayton Lockett focused on him writhing in pain. This, of course, is horrible. Even a rabid animal elicits sympathy when it’s in the final, foaming agony. But few mentioned the reason Lockett was on that gurney in the first place with an IV strapped to his arm, the reason his life was justifiably forfeit: Stephanie Neiman.

Stephanie was shot by Lockett, who then stood by and watched his accomplices bury her alive. I’m guessing that her agony lasted a bit longer than 43 minutes.

It is obviously true that two wrongs do not make a right, but there is really only one wrong here, and that is the vicious extermination of an innocent woman. The botched execution of her murderer is troubling from a procedural standpoint, but it should not blind us to the true tragedy in this case.

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