Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Two Botched Executions

Condemned killer Clayton Lockett
Clayton Lockett
The internet is abuzz over the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. The drugs administered via IV to kill him quickly instead left him convulsing. It took 43 minutes before his heart finally stopped and he died.

It had been June 3 of 1999 when Lockett and an accomplice, Shawn Mathis, decided to pull off a home invasion robbery when they were surprised by 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, who had pulled up at the residence to drop off a friend. Stephanie refused to give the pair the keys to her pickup truck. Lockett and Mathis beat Stephanie, then used duct tape to gag her and bind her hands.

Murder victim Stephanie Nieman
They drove Stephanie down a dirt road into a remote area, where she was forced to watch as Mathis dug a grave for her in a roadside ditch. The men made Stephanie stand in the ditch, then shot her. Stephanie didn't die, and the shotgun jammed, preventing a second shot. Lockett went back to the truck to fix the gun while Stephanie pleaded for her life. The men laughed and joked about how tough Stephanie was. Finally the gun was fixed and Stephanie was shot a second time. This second shot also failed to kill her, so the pair just buried her alive and left the recent high school graduate to die.

The unexpectedly lingering death of Clayton Lockett made me think of another botched execution -- the execution of Sarah Brown in Kansas during the summer of 1993. Two injections of potassium chloride directly into her brain were unsuccessful in causing death. She was then wrapped in a blanket and left unattended for 24 hours before a nurse intervened and said that Sarah should be provided with care. Severely brain damaged, Sarah lost her vision and would never walk or talk. She died five years later, on September 28, 1998.

What crime had Sarah Brown committed that had ended in her being slated for death?

Abortion survivor Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown
Just like Stephanie Neiman, it had simply been a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sarah had just had the bad fortune of being in the womb of a mother who chose an abortion at 36 weeks. Using Sarah's mother's age -- just 15 years old -- Dr. George Tiller proclaimed the death of Sarah to be vital to preserving the health of her mother.

There was no public outcry over Sarah Brown's botched execution. There were no hearings to determine if it was okay to continue to inject potassium chloride into the brains of healthy, viable unborn babies. In fact, when the Attorney General of Kansas decided to address Tiller's post-viability "health of the mother" abortions, it was he, not Tiller, whose career was destroyed.

Because that's how we do things in America. Just as abortion-rights activists who had power and authority in Pennsylvania moved to protect the interests of Kermit Gosnell, abortion-rights activists who had power and authority in Kansas moved to protect the interests of George Tiller.

Clayton Lockett's botched execution will lead to a huge public outcry, a huge public debate, and political wrangling over when and how and why to execute people who have committed a crime and gone through due process. Would that Sarah Brown's botched execution had gotten even a tenth of that attention. But the state-sanctioned killings of children like Sarah will continue as long as we entrust their care to abortion-rights supporters.

Postscript: You can help to change the tide of indifference to the killings of babies like Sarah and the Gosnell victims. Go to and donate any amount -- as little as $1 -- to spread the word that enough is enough. A country that can have compassion for Clayton Lockett can muster a little compassion for babies as well.

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