People seem to have forgotten that after raping her friend, Clayton Lockett shot and then ordered his friends to bury his teenage victim alive. Stephanie Neiman’s parents, who have spent the past 15-years going through the motions of living, are constantly faced with terrifying images of her last moments. They eat, they sleep, and her father goes to work and comes home again. Stephanie’s mother says that, “We do what we have to do to make it through the day and we start all over again the next. We exist.”
All Stephanie Neiman’s family has ever wanted was for justice to be served. In this case that meant that Stephanie’s killer needed to be executed because that was the sentence imposed at trial. In a statement released to the press on the killer’s execution day they said in part, “God blessed us with our precious daughter, Stephanie for 19 years. Stephanie loved children. She was the joy of our life. We are thankful this day has finally arrived and justice will finally be served.”
Now, because of arguments being made by death penalty opponents Mr. and Mrs. Neiman are implicated in death by torture through association. Lockett was an unrepentant, sexually sadistic psychopath, and the case against him was solid, making it impossible for abolitionists to argue that an innocent man had been executed, or that his trial lawyer was incompetent. Instead their best case scenario was realized when his vein collapsed, because it provided them with an opportunity to pass moral judgment. They say that he was tortured to death, that the death penalty is inhumane, that it is beneath us as a civilization, and that it is immoral. The obvious implication is that if you favor the death penalty as a fair and just punishment then you favor torture, are unenlightened, and are morally bankrupt.
The ironies of the death penalty are not lost on me. Good people who lost loved ones to maniacal killers are portrayed as cold and vindictive, while killers being led to the death gurney are victims of a cruel society. Death penalty abolitionists want a factually innocent person executed so that they can gloat, while death penalty proponents fear that possibility.
It is also worth noting that the states that execute the worst of the worst are scrambling to purchase death penalty approved drugs. They now pursue a back alley and black market approach to securing the drugs used in the executioner’s cocktail because of the abolitionist’s success in convincing drug manufacturers to stop selling execution approved drugs.
Stephanie Neiman and Clayton Lockett are both dead. But, as was alluded to by Stephanie’s parents; her last moments were rushed, solitary, terrifying, and tortured. She was an innocent victim who was abused in the worst way possible and then buried alive. She did not have an opportunity to make amends with her God, say good bye to her family, or reconcile her brief life on earth. Lockett, on the other hand, benefited from a major public investment. After murdering Stephanie the state hired a lawyer, provided due process, held a trial, and subsequently housed, clothed and fed Lockett as the appeals process wound its way through the system. He had 15-years to contemplate his deed, make peace with his Lord, and put his affairs in order. An army of abolitionists fought for his life as surely as he isolated Stephanie prior to assassinating her. Lockett died with full knowledge that a jury carefully and deliberately weighed the evidence and found him worthy of execution. He never showed remorse, and he never apologized for killing a teen aged girl. The manner in which he died cannot be compared to the soulless evil he inflicted upon Stephanie Neiman.
Will the botched execution of Clayton Lockett represent a watershed moment in the United States ongoing death penalty debate? The abolitionists and other prison rights apologists certainly hope so and will play it for everything they can. However, I have faith that the American public will see through their disingenuous arguments and administrative bottlenecks and continue to support the death penalty as they have throughout our history.