Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive May  2, 2014)

If You’re Going To Do It, Do It Right

By Bob Cooper

After weeks of endless, baseless, and insensitive speculation over Malaysian Airlines Flight #370 and days of hysteria over an NBA owner’s tiff with his tramp, we now have round the clock media hand-wringing over the execution of Clayton Lockett at the state penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma.  In comparison, the 28 innocent people killed in a series of tornados rated barely a mention.   Using words like “botched” and “torture”, CNN, MSNBC, et al are wrapping themselves in the Constitution as standard-bearers for the 8th Amendment when their real objective is the abolition of capital punishment. 

The word “botched” might be accurate if Clayton Lockett was still alive today but he’s not, so there.  An unintended beneficiary of all this fuss was fellow inmate Charles Warner who was scheduled to go a few hours after Lockett and had his date with the needle hastily postponed*.  Now before we pass around the tissues and have a big cry, let’s not forget what brought Messrs. Lockett & Warner to McAlester in the first place. 

Lockett was convicted of killing Stephanie Neiman, 19, by shooting her then burying her alive in the course of a home invasion.  He also raped another woman in the house just for good measure.  Warner raped and murdered the 11 month old daughter of a woman he lived with.   The anchors constantly remind us that Lockett lived 43 minutes after the first drug was administered without a single thought as to how long his victim lived after he buried her.   While many people have reservations about the death penalty in general, few would say that these two, in particular, don’t deserve it.   

But ‘deserving it’ isn’t the issue here, this is all about optics.  Lethal Injection was developed to overcome the barbaric images that have developed over the ages with methods like Drawing & Quartering, the Guillotine, and more recently, Hanging and the Electric Chair.  It conjures up visions of drifting off to slumber and the only way you could soften it any further is to eliminate the needle and give it to them with a sugar cube.  It worked fine until the source of some of the original drugs dried up and they had to design a new formula.  This has led to a new round of lawsuits and the Lockett case will now be compared to some infamous hanging bloopers where the condemned man strangled to death or had his head pulled off because the rope wasn’t weighted correctly. 

The most effective and humane method in history has been the Firing Squad used by the state of Utah since the 1860s until they opted for Lethal Injection in 2004.  Each execution was carried out by 5 law enforcement volunteers and there has never been a documented case where death wasn’t instantaneous.  I’d say it deserves another look because any optical issues which likely led to its abandonment pale compared to those in the Lockett case where the only thing that could make the story worse would be if Donald Sterling pulled the switch. 

*Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (who appears to be made of sterner stuff than most of her Northern counterparts) just appeared to announce a review of the Lockett execution complete with an independent pathologist, taking the wind out of the sails of Lockett’s attorneys.  She also made it very clear that the 14 day stay on Warner’s execution is exactly that, and he’d best mark May 13th on his calendar. 



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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