OKLAHOMA IS NOT OK

I began this late last night, but still had re-writing to do and went to bed. After catching up on everything else here on the inter web thingie, I was prepared to return, finish and polish and publish it. I have no need to do so now. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has said everything I planned on saying, said it quite well, and possibly said it better than I could have.

The facts behind the botched Oklahoma execution two nights ago she recounts are by themselves sufficient to demonstrate that the sole purpose of the death penalty is vengeance. The actions of the Oklahoma legislature and governor are contrary to every principle of the separation of powers to be found in the U.S. Constitution as well as in each state’s governing laws.

It should not be a matter of pride that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared that the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were to proceed despite the Oklahoma  Supreme Court issuing a stay. It should not be a matter of pride that Mike Christian, a member of the state House of Representatives, began drafting a bill to impeach the Supreme Court justices who had voted for the stay.

No matter which political party these folks belong to (Republican in both cases) voters should be appalled at this extreme overstepping of both authority and common sense. But while this is a blatant example of violating a constitutional precept (state rather than federal) the usual suspects from the right who will claim nearly any action by President Obama is unconstitutional instead are outraged for other reasons.

Eric Ericson of FOX NEWS wrote about remembering the victim, 19 year old Stephanie Nieman, who was buried alive. That is fine. In every death penalty case there are one or more victims who suffered needlessly. But that basic fact does not mean that we, as a civilized nation (allegedly so, anyways) should wreak justice by revenge. It also does not mean that any reason, vengeance or otherwise, used as a rationale for capital punishment, justifies in turn torturing a murderer while in the process of taking his life.   http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/30/botched-oklahoma-execution-did-anyone-remember-clayton-lockett-victim/

Let us allow Ms Lithwick to take it from here.

To be crystal clear: A state Supreme Court, in an effort to promote the value of justice and acting in its capacity as an independent, fact-finding, deliberative body, ordered that an execution be postponed in order to ensure that nothing like what actually happened would happen. And then a state governor, in an effort to protect the values of speed, secrecy, and vengeance, called the court’s jurisdiction into question, and a state legislator, in order to promote the value of retribution against unpopular legal decisions, initiated impeachment proceedings. According to the National Center for State Courts this is the fourth time in four years that state high court judges have been threatened with impeachment over their judicial decisions. 

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2014/04/clayton_lockett_s_botched_execution_the_grim_but_predictable_result_of_oklahoma.single.html

She has much more to say and her entire opinion piece is worth reading.

But the situation in Oklahoma—and wherever the death penalty is used—reminds me of what was a popular dig at bossy playmates when I was a child. “Hey, who died and made you god?” we would declare in objection.

“Vengeance is mine”, sayeth the Lord is found in several different versions in the Bible.

So I ask of Governor Fallin and Rep. Christian (an appropriately ironic name, don’t you think), and even the state of Oklahoma for having the death penalty at all,  “Who died and made you god?”

 

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Comments

  • Devildog  On May 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Same old, same old! Is the main argument morality, execution of the execution, innocent people or what.

    Let’s make the process quicker and as painless as possible but sh_t happens.

    As for impeachment and the OK Supreme Court, impeachment is part of the democratic process and there was not a stay in effect when the execution took place. So, your point is…

    Vengeance? You can call it that-I prefer an eye for an eye (I guess without INTENTIONAL torture). Relying on the Bible, eh.

    4% sentenced to death are innocent-how many of those 4%executed. But I would raise the standard from beyond a reasonable doubt to absolute certainty.

    So what is left, alone, is the morality/civilized nation argument. Just as you don’t want others to impose their morality on you, don’t impose yours on the majority. Feel free, of course, to do what you are doing in an effort to change the majority opinion but I think you weaken your argument by adding these nonsensical extraneous issues. But, keep up the good fight. Values do change over time.

    I feel for good people when bad things happen to them. My heart is not bleeding for these two.

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