Botched Executions and the Death Penalty Debate

The debate over the death penalty in the United States has been reignited in light of recent controversial executions in Oklahoma and Ohio.

According to Ziva Branstetter, a guest on Democracy Now and witness to the execution in Oklahoma, inmate Clayton Lockett had violent reactions during his execution. After the lethal injections began, “he began writhing, lifting his shoulders up off the gurney and his head up off the gurney. He was clenching his jaw, exhaling,” said Branstetter. Lockett was sentenced to death for committing rape and murder during a home invasion in 1999.

The potential for causing pain is one reason some are against the death penalty. Southern Miss history major Seth Lee said he thinks the death penalty should be abolished because it amounts to “a senseless revenge killing.”On Listverse, the anti-death penalty argument that the idea of teaching others that it is wrong to kill by killing a killer is hypocritical was juxtaposed with the pro-death penalty argument that potential criminals fear capital punishment more than life in prison.

However, Lee argued that there might be a “classist aspect” to the death penalty.“A rich person is less likely to get the death penalty simply because they can afford a better lawyer. Say what you want to about western capitalism, but there's no way you can call that justice.” Lee also pointed out that by keeping the death penalty, we put ourselves on a list of countries we might not want to be associated with.

Business Insider reported that President Obama said certain “heinous” crimes warrant the death penalty but also that the way it is carried out in the US has some issues.

Although national support for the death penalty has waned slightly in recent years, the death penalty remains legal in 33 states, including Mississippi. The Washington Post reported that capital punishment is still popular in Oklahoma despite the botched execution because of the feeling that Lockett received a fitting punishment. As for Mississippi, Lee believes the state will be one of the last states to abolish the death penalty. “They've effectively shut down our one abortion clinic and it's still illegal for a person with secular beliefs to hold public office, so... yeah, it'll be a while.”