Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bring Back the Guillotine

Clayton Lockett was killed by the state of Oklahoma on Tuesday in a botched, 40-minute execution that observers said "looked like torture."
Everybody eats shit sooner or later.  

On Tuesday, Clayton Lockett ate shit in a way that was both unfortunate and all too predictable.  Lockett, a convicted murderer and rapist, was sentenced to death by the state of Oklahoma for a violent crime spree way back in 1999.

Now, 15 years later, there were two problems with Lockett's impending execution.  The first was that Lockett requested a last meal of chateaubriand (that's a fancy French cut of steak, in case the less cultured of you are wondering), fried shrimp, and a slice of pecan pie.  

What's the problem with that?

Well, Oklahoma will only pay $15 for a death row inmate's last meal.  Lockett wanted a meal that's going to run you $29 on the low side.  

So the state offered Lockett a take-out steak dinner from a restaurant chain called "Western Sizzlin'" instead.  Western Sizzlin' calls itself "The home of the Flamekist Steak."  They've got a Round-Up 6-ounce Flamekist sirloin on the menu for $7.99.

But Lockett didn't want Western Sizzlin'.  He wanted chateaubriand.  So he turned it down and went hungry on his last day.  Western Sizzlin' has to love that product placement, eh?  "The steak condemned men won't eat."

For some reason, Clayton Lockett didn't want this on his last day on Earth.  What was going through that man's mind?

In any case, the dinner menu was the relatively minor problem with Lockett's execution.  

The larger problem was that European drug companies will no longer sell lethal drug cocktails to the American states that still carry out executions of prisoners.  

Europeans are funny that way.  They think state executions are barbaric, and have a strange habit of being inflicted upon men of the African-American persuasion all out of proportion to the number of heinous crimes they commit.

Europeans also think that everyone should get healthcare, and that no on should be homeless, so you can see how much credibility they have.  

Lockett's Bizarre Death  

In the weeks leading up to Lockett's execution, there was some concern that the state-sanctioned murder wouldn't take place.  Spokespeople from Oklahoma were suggesting that they might not be able to get their hands on the drugs necessary to kill Lockett correctly.  

Okay.  Full stop here.  The state of Oklahoma was unsure of its ability to secure drugs that would kill Lockett in a quick and humane way.  Chew on that one for a minute.  

The state of Oklahoma doesn't own a telephone, I suppose.  If and when they do get a phone, I'm sure there are a couple of people in the chemistry department at MIT that might be able to help them out.    

Lockett's lawyers issued a request for a stay of execution, stating that Lockett was entitled to know where the drugs for his execution were coming from, and what they in fact were.  The Oklahoma courts denied the request, ruling that Oklahoma could keep information about the drugs a secret.

Since the Europeans have stopped selling the lethal injection cocktails, some American states have turned to the lightly-regulated, so-called "compounding pharmacies" to make the drugs instead.

You remember compounding pharmacies, don't you?  They were the ones who were selling painkiller injections a couple years ago, which ended up infecting more than 700 chronic pain patients with fungal meningitis, and killing 64 of them.     

So how's that compounding pharmacy, lethal injection concoction thing working out?

So far, so good.  Last year, observers in Ohio were astounded to watch a man undergoing execution violently gasp for breath for ten minutes before he finally died.  And Oklahoma observers were similarly amazed when another executed man woke up in the middle of his execution and said:

"I feel my whole body burning."

After weeks of delays, if anything Lockett's death was even more gruesome than those.  For some reason, the vein where his initial drug combo was injected "exploded" during the procedure.  Apparently, no one noticed this right away.  

Lockett called out "Oh, man!" after he was already declared unconscious.  Later, he said, "I'm not..."  Then he writhed in pain, agony and torment for about 40 minutes before finally dying of an apparent heart attack.  At various times, he tried to get up from the gurney he was strapped to.  

See, what happens is you get three drugs in the cocktail.  One is a powerful painkiller.  The next two stop your heart and lungs, and are very, very painful.  If the painkiller doesn't get to where it's going, let's say for example because your vein explodes, then...  

Officials at the execution had to pull black drapes in front of the gallery, so the gathered witnesses couldn't see the ongoing festivities.

“This was botched, and it was difficult to watch,” said David Autry, one of Lockett’s lawyers.

Dean Sanderford, another lawyer for Lockett, said, “It looked like torture.”

The execution of Charles Warner, by coincidence another African-American male, was scheduled to happen as soon as Lockett's was over.  Now it's postponed until the state of Oklahoma can get its collective head out of its ass.

The Easy Answer 

Naturally, there is some hint in all of this that the problem is corruption and cronyism.  In Oklahoma?  Get out of here.  Nevertheless, federal lawyers are asking for a "full and transparent, independent investigation."

When outsiders publicly ask for an independent and transparent investigation, you can bet your paycheck that they don't expect to get one.

Follow the money.  If someone's pharmacy school drop-out brother-in-law is getting paid millions of dollars to cook up drug cocktails for the state, I think there's your culprit.  

In the meantime, let's assume that's not the case.  Let's just imagine that people in Oklahoma government are incompetent and can't figure out how to kill someone right.  They need people from Belgium to figure it out for them.  Okay, not too big a stretch.

What would be a way that Oklahomans could carry out state-sanctioned murders that is hard to screw up, is amazingly effective, and ensures the condemned is dead in just a few seconds? 

Hint: the French used this method of execution for almost two hundred years, from 1791 right up to 1977, when they outlawed capital punishment, without a single botch job.

It's easy to use, doesn't require electricity, and no doctor need be present.  And as I mentioned, it's fast.  Ca-thunk, and you're dead.  

Well, the jury is still out on when you actually die, but certainly not more than ten seconds later.

You know the device.  You love the device.  It's le Guillotine.

It was designed to be humane, and it's far more humane than the chemical torture the condemned have recently been undergoing.   

The Guillotine is a product of the Enlightenment. Compounding pharmacies are a product of whatever addled times we find ourselves in now.  The Last Days, let's call them.  The End Times.

The Guillotine also has the added benefit of public drama, and when the judge hands down the sentence of death, she can always say to the courtroom:

"Off with his head!" 

The past is the future.


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