On April 29, in McAlester, Oklahoma, the planned execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett utilizing a new three-drug lethal injection protocol failed, leaving Lockett evincing unexpected signs of pain and leading Oklahoma prison officials to halt the proceedings. Lockett later died of a heart attack.
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said the unprecedented execution underscores the brutality of the death penalty and urged Oklahomans to weigh carefully the demands of justice and mercy.
“How we treat criminals says a lot about us as a society,” the archbishop said. “We certainly need to administer justice with due consideration for the victims of crime, but we must find a way of doing so that does not contribute to the culture of death, which threatens to completely erode our sense of the innate dignity of the human person and of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”
“Once we recover our understanding that life is a gift from our Creator, wholly unearned and wholly unmerited by any of us, we will begin to recognize that there are and ought to be very strict limits to the legitimate use of the death penalty. It should never be used, for example, to exact vengeance, nor should it be allowed simply as a deterrent. In general, there are other ways to administer just punishment without resorting to lethal measures,” he continued.
“The execution of Clayton Lockett really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether,” he added.
“In the meantime, let us pray for peace for all those affected by or involved in last night’s execution in any way – including Lockett himself, his family, prison officials and others who witnessed the event. My compassion and prayers go out especially to the family of Stephanie Neiman, whom Lockett was convicted of killing.”