Clayton Lockett execution: Oklahomans left stunned after criticism of botched execution

Many in the state support the death penalty, but question the use of lethal injection after the 38-year-old inmate died of an apparent heart attack

Geneva Miller was a bit annoyed as she dug into a sandwich at the Heavenly Delights bakery, where wooden signs line the walls bearing affirmations of food and family.

She could not believe that her state, Oklahoma, with its strong support for capital punishment, was being pilloried across the nation, and the world, because of one botched execution. "We're just crazy about how everybody thinks Oklahoma is bad for supporting the death penalty," she said. "We just don't understand how they could think otherwise – that it wouldn't be right."

New details continued to spill out last week about the fumbled execution of inmate Clayton Lockett, 38, who died of an apparent heart attack on Tuesday after authorities halted a lethal injection that caused him to convulse and a vein to burst. The case prompted state officials to order a review of the way executions are carried out and has revived a national debate over whether the death penalty is inhumane.

Late on Friday, President Barack Obama, who supports the death penalty for heinous crimes including mass murder, said the Oklahoma case was "extremely troubling" and should prompt a re-examination of the way executions were carried out. There were now "significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied" across the US, Mr Obama said, adding that he would ask the Attorney General, Eric Holder, to investigate problems surrounding its application. "And this situation in Oklahoma, I think, just highlights some of the … the significant problems there," Mr Obama added.

End times: An official waits for word of the execution End times: An official waits for word of the execution But for Ms Miller and many other Oklahomans, Lockett – who shot and ordered the live burial of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman – got exactly what he deserved.

"It's like the Lord said: 'You reap what you sow'," said one customer who had just finished eating at a diner in Checotah, Oklahoma. At the Harbor Mountain Coffee House in McAlester, about two miles from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the site of the botched execution, customer James Barr said: "I think he got what's coming to him."

For McAlester, a town of 18,000 about 90 miles south of Tulsa, executions have become a routine occurrence at the hulking white penitentiary and its outbuildings, all surrounded by a high fence and barbed wire, on the edge of town.

Travis Boatner, as he scrubbed the coffee shop's white walls and swept the floor behind the counter, said people had been talking about the Lockett execution but that there was little argument. "There's really not much of a debate," he said. "This is the part of the country where people pretty much argue an eye for an eye."

Lockett was convicted of murder and other charges, including rape, in 2000 after he and two accomplices attacked two young women, one of whom – Ms Neiman – Lockett shot twice. Lockett then ordered his accomplices to bury her alive, witnesses said.

Capital punishment is broadly popular in Oklahoma, where voters chose the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a two-to-one margin over Mr Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Governor Mary Fallin and other Republicans dominate state politics.

However, Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said there would "definitely be litigation" in the aftermath of Lockett's death. He added that however popular capital punishment remained in the state, the death had sparked concerns among proponents about how the process was carried out. "This brings up the question, is there a humane way to deliberately take the life of a person?" he said.

The execution saw the use of a drug combination that had not previously been used in the state. Lockett convulsed violently during the execution and tried to lift his head after a doctor had declared him unconscious, then died of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.

A microphone hangs over the gurney in the Texas death house A microphone hangs over the gurney in the Texas death house Aaron Totani, a massage therapist from McAlester, said he was a proponent of capital punishment and believed that prisons should bring back chain gangs. But he voiced concern over the bungled execution and how Lockett may have been treated beforehand. Officials said Lockett was Tasered and refused food in the hours before his death.

During the execution, medical officials struggled to find a suitable vein, and a doctor ended up inserting the IV needle into Lockett's groin. Mr Totani wondered whether Lockett was properly hydrated, as a lack of fluids can cause veins to collapse. The botching of the execution, he said, was "a bit torturous".

Ron Grubis, a retired high school principal and a staunch supporter of capital punishment, asked: "Why is it so hard to kill anybody with drugs? Shouldn't it be simple?" Death row inmates should be able to choose how they died, he said. "We can go back to giving people a choice. Let's go back to the firing squad. There's no such thing as a totally painless execution."

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary was depicted in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath as the prison from which Tom Joad is released. It was also the site of one of the worst prison riots in US history when, in 1973, three inmates died after the prison was set ablaze.

Richard Coleman, a retired police officer from Tulsa, said he supported the death penalty for heinous crimes. He has met prisoners and brought teenagers to the prison as part of a "scared straight" programme. The students are shown "Sparky", the disabled electric chair, in a museum on the prison grounds.

But Mr Coleman said his decades in law enforcement had led him to believe that the state was too concerned with locking people up and not enough with rehabilitation. And while he thinks lethal injection is the most humane way to kill someone, the problems with it are troubling. "Oklahoma has a bad enough reputation. We don't need this," he said. "People think we're rednecks and everything. Let's get this right."

© Washington Post

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Teacher of Thinking School Drive Team and Year 3 Form teacher

Competitive: Notting Hill Prep School: Spring Term 2015 Innovative, ambitious ...

Reception Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is the UK mark...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Trainee Recruitment C...

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Design and Technology Teacher ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past