Capital punishment needs to halt for review

Allan Kew, Staff member

The latest debacle concerning the institution of the death penalty requires a review of the processes of capital punishment.

On April 29, Clayton Lockett was executed by the state of Oklahoma in what has been described by many as a ‘botched’ procedure.

During the execution, Lockett’s vein in his groin collapsed, causing him to experience a heart attack during the execution. Witnesses noted Lockett lifted his head several times and convulsed, eventually dying 43 minutes after the beginning of the execution.

Controversy surrounds this execution, not only for the manner in which the individual was executed, but in the procedure and components that occurred before the execution. Namely, this pertains to the three-drug cocktail now used in place of the single-drug administration in the past.

This new method evolved from the growing scarcity of single chemical drugs produced by European companies, which are now collectively refusing to sell for usage in executions.

This poses a problem. Single-chemical drugs have been tested, repeatedly, in executions for decades and have stood the test as being a relatively non-cruel method for capital punishment.

However, these new three-drug cocktails have not been thoroughly tested to prove their efficiency in completing the act. More so, some states do not reveal the drugs involved in their cocktails.

Regardless of the arguments for or against the institution of capital punishment, there should, for the moment, exist a moratorium on all national executions.

This stay of all executions should remain until the three-drug cocktail has been methodically tested and its efficiency is proven, or until the discovery of a new source for acquiring the single-chemical drugs is found.

President Obama has since called for a review of the national system. However, this review will be limited as executions are administered by state governments, not the federal government.

Yet many experts are also calling for a review of the state system as well.

According to Paul Lewis of the Guardian, the Constitution Project, a think-tank based out of Washington D.C., has published a 200-page report calling for the re-institution of single-chemical administrations.

The moderate think-tank, comprised of opponents and advocates of the death penalty, argued that the possibility for “inmate pain and suffering” is of a higher risk when the three-drug cocktail is administered.

This is evident from the execution of Lockett, and a string of executions before him, as listed by Guardian writers Ed Pilkington and Alan Yuhas. This list further includes other forms of capital punishment from the past that “went wrong.”

There needs to be a review of the system of capital punishment, as the sentence already teeters on unconstitutional. If the execution includes some form of “cruel or unusual punishment,” as quoted from the US Constitution, then the act is explicitly unconstitutional.

Disregarding value judgments on capital punishment again, the smoothness and humane quality of a single-chemical drug administration for capital punishment does not fall under unconstitutionality. The Supreme Court has demonstrated in its rulings in the past.

According to the BBC, Charles Warner, the other inmate in Oklahoma who was to be executed the same night as Lockett, has been given a six month stay of execution.

Hopefully six months’ time will be enough for Oklahoma, and the other 23 states that use three-drug cocktails, to review their processes of capital punishment and come to a more efficient and humane system of administering executions.