[Ed. – His victim, whom he shot and buried alive, all suffered gruesomely, but screw her.]
[T]he prisoner was quite gruesomely suffering. He was supposed to have been unconscious by then (and an attending doctor had declared him so at 6:33), but he plainly was not. He writhed and twitched. He bared his teeth in a grimace. He tried to lift his head. His body convulsed. He struggled against the straps that held him down. He tried to speak, mumbled, and at length cried, “Oh, man.” Then the blinds came down and the microphone switched off.
The execution was halted. Behind the blinds, frantic efforts were made to revive the prisoner and save his life. Whether he was conscious during these efforts has not been disclosed. But, thirty-six long minutes later, he died—of a heart attack. As Jack Shafer acidly observed, Oklahoma’s executioners had accidentally killed Clayton Lockett while trying to put him to death.
The classic justifications for the death penalty have not changed much over the centuries. There is retribution—an eye for an eye, a life for a life. There is deterrence—this is what awaits you if you transgress. And there is awe—a graphic demonstration of the ultimate power of the state. It was true, at some times and in some places, that if the only purpose of a given execution was the irreversible removal of a particular politically inconvenient person, a cup of hemlock might be offered or an invitation to open a vein extended. But most of the time, for most of the history of so-called civilization, it was taken for granted that in order to serve its broader goals, capital punishment had to be public, it had to be spectacular, and it had to be humiliating. Very often, it had to be agonizing: the stake and the fire, drawing and quartering, the cross and the nails.