Wednesday’s BBC World newscasts were dominated by coverage of Tuesday night’s delayed Oklahoma execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. The execution was the top story for at least four consecutive hours on BBC World, the British broadcasters’ international television service, because there were complications during the execution which delayed the period of time it took for condemned man to finally be pronounced dead.
Due to European Union’s ban on the export of one of the drugs historically used in US lethal injections, a new lethal combination of drugs were administered that prolonged the time it took between the onset of prisoner’s loss of consciousness and the time he was finally pronounced dead.
Prison officials confirmed the prisoner ultimately died of a heart attack that occurred nearly 40 minutes after the first sedative was administered. They claim that at no time after having lost consciousness did the convicted murderer ever regain it.
With repeated and detailed descriptions of the procedure used to execute a man whose crime, watching his friends bury alive the 19 year old girl he raped and then shot, was mentioned, if at all, merely as a passing aside.
Lockett’s was to have been the first of two executions to have taken place by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. With detailed timelines, the BBC broadcasts delivered minute by minute recaps of the procedure, starting with the moment at 6:26 PM CST when the inmate was administered his first sedative and the 6:33 PM CST declaration that he was “unconscious.”
At that point, he was injected with two additional drugs designed to kill him.
At 6:36PM, the BBC reported in horror, the prisoner began “writhing, and breathing heavily.” A few moments later, the BBC reminded viewers, the prisoner attempted to lift up his shoulders and “appeared in grave distress.”
The stories, teased as the main news headline of the day, featured extensive interviews with anti-death penalty activists who attended the execution who relayed what they claimed to have see in gruesome and exacting detail.
That argument, together with the BBC’s extensive and uniformly sympathetic coverage of those making it, provided a lethal combination of its own, transforming a human monster into a victim while utterly erasing the memory of the true victims and the barbaric monstrous crimes they suffered.
None of the coverage, which took precedence over all the world’s other stories, ever mentioned, let alone interviewed any of Lockett’s victims loved ones, nor even so much as uttered her name. Her name was Stephanie Nieman.
In 1999, one month after graduating high school, Stephanie Nieman was kidnapped, shot twice in the face, and then buried alive by Lockett after she and a friend happened to witness Lockett’s botched robbery attempt. Lockett and his accomplices, then dragged her friend into the house and repeatedly raped her.
They took both women to a remote location where Lockett demanded their keys and alarm codes so their homes could also be robbed and ransacked. Lockett shot her when she refused. Then, while still conscious and in obvious agony, placed her inside a shallow grave and buried her alive.
The BBC called Lockett’s execution a “gruesome” affair filled with “prolonged agony.” Others, particularly Stephanie Nieman’s loved ones, might call his execution justice.