“The active ingredient is potassium, which, when injected in large quantities, stops the heart . . .”—Gov. Mary Fallin, as quoted in The Oklahoman, October 8, 2015
In their relentless and ruthless quest to kill people, some state leaders here are obviously exposing the brutality and arbitrariness of the death penalty in this country.
Lethal injection was invented in Oklahoma and first legalized here, and this is where it’s eventually going to come to an end. Even the person who pushed for its legalization thinking he was ending gas chambers and electric chairs, the late Rev. Bill Wiseman, died in a 2007 place crash with tremendous regret over the issue.
The latest news is that the last inmate executed here, Charles Warner, was given a wrong drug in what state officials call “the protocol.” Warner was given potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, which isn’t an approved drug for lethal injection in Oklahoma. As he died on the gurney last January, he cried out, “My body is on fire.”
The inmate killed before him, Clayton Lockett, writhed around groaning on the gurney for about 45 minutes when he was injected by the state on April 29, 2014.
Now, the state has halted at the last minute the execution of Richard Glossip, who has maintained his innocence in the crime for which he is accused, and all other death-row inmates until it supposedly gets the drugs right, which will never happen. But to someone like Gov. Mary Fallin, pictured right and quoted above, it’s just a matter of stopping the heart, and potassium in either form will do the trick in “large quantities” by putting someone in cardiac arrest.
Everyone personally involved in this dark slapstick comedy of horror needs an attorney now, and Fallin has already hired one. Who can blame her? Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says he’s investigating it all, but what does it matter now? He has an obvious conflict of interest because of his obsessive political support for the death penalty. He needs an attorney, too. So does Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
There’s only one answer: End the death penalty, which the U.S. Supreme Court will likely do as Oklahoma continues to expose its gruesome details and randomness.
Lockett and Warner were convicted of heinous crimes, but Glossip hasn’t actually ever killed anyone. You can read about his case here and here, which I’ve written about for several weeks now. Combine the drug mix-ups, the painful deaths and the ambiguity surrounding how to determine the severity of the crimes leading to a death penalty sentence, and it’s almost impossible to think the high court will allow the death drama to continue at least in this backwoods place.
Much of the civilized world already thinks the death penalty and it practitioners are barbaric. To continue to torture people to death now that it’s all been exposed on the world stage would obviously be in violation of the U.S. Constitution and all human rights accords throughout the world.
The lawsuits are coming around the mountain here in Oklahoma in droves. Some leaders in Oklahoma, in their incompetence, mediocrity and, I guess, self-righteous love of revenge or, perhaps, myopic ideology and political pandering, have inadvertently started the beginning of the end of the death penalty.
What just happened here? That’s a question people like Fallin, Pruitt and Prater will be asking in the months to come as they scratch their heads in dumfounded Okie bewilderment. But the answer to that is clear as well.
The death penalty, in its organic state as a practice, is a human error of immense proportions, an error that can never be rectified once it occurs. Do away with it, and all this madness goes away. Keep killing and the madness continues.