2014 Archives

SMU Experts: The botched Oklahoma execution

May 1, 2014

SMU faculty are providing expert commentary on a botched execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

The execution used a new drug combination that left Clayton Lockett writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney in a state prison facility in McAlester, Okla. He died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the process began. A doctor had halted the execution after finding that the drugs had stopped flowing and Lockett had awakened, according to reports.

SMU Experts Rick Halperin and Meghan Ryan:

Rick Halperin
Rick Halperin

Director of SMU's Embrey
Human Rights Program

"As long as there are problems with lethal injection, and there have been and there will be, there will always be legislators determined to kill people with some other method."
— Halperin told Reuters

“This was particularly appalling. This particular botched execution should dispel the myth once and for all that executions can or are or can be humane.”
— Halperin told CBS 11 News

"Now that the U.S. can't get the drugs it needs from manufacturers in Europe, which opposes the death penalty, death penalty states are resorting to trying untested drug combinations on prisoners — with horrible results. It’s become painfully clear that such states, including Texas, should not operate in secrecy. We should know, and death-row prisoners should know, what execution drugs our tax dollars are paying for and who is producing them."
— Halperin said

Meghan Ryan
Meghan Ryan

Assistant Professor of Law specializing in criminal law
and procedure

From an interview with KERA radio:

... on challenging the constitutionality of using lethal injection drugs: "It's difficult for offenders and their attorneys to challenge ... if you don't know what it is. Another problem: One might interpret this as states experimenting on humans. They're essentially using drugs that have not been used before, in this way, to kill people, not knowing what the consequences will be."

... on why people should care that criminals are executed by these drugs: "There's a lot of sentiment around saying, 'People who are on death row did horrible crimes and they deserve to die, but they don't deserve punishment beyond that.' Where do we draw the line between sanctioned death -- where's the line between that and torture? Once you move beyond the pain that is necessarily associated with killing someone, it's unconstitutional."

Listen to Ryan's full interview. audio icon