With Lockett, it is a challenge to rise above revenge. On June 3, 1999, Lockett, then 23, and two others, including a 17-year-old, went to Bobby Lee Bornt’s home to rob him. After kicking down his front door, Lockett beat Bornt and tied him up. When two female friends of Bornt arrived, one was raped by two of the men. Next, all were taken to a rural area where one of the accomplices was ordered to dig a grave. Lockett shot one of the women, Stephanie Neiman, 19, twice, but she failed to die. So Lockett buried her alive, later blithely recalling hearing her breathing and crying.
Oklahoma Republican state Rep. Mike Christian spoke for many of when he said he wasn’t bothered by Lockett’s suffering. Acknowledging his own harshness, he said that as a father and former lawman, “I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine, or being fed to the lions.”
In other words, Christian just wanted Lockett dead. Whether he suffered is of little consequence and, besides, his suffering pales in comparison to the suffering he caused his victims. Christian’s words sound less like an argument for justice than a lust for revenge.
No one is immune to these emotions but we should recognize them as such. The emotional urge to kill as an palliative to disconsolate pain is real and not rare. Does it work? I am lucky not to know.
Rationally, there is no redeeming return on a death warrant. Instead, by condoning state executions, especially under such controlled, calculated circumstances, we are passively complicit in the taking of a defenseless life. We don’t inject the cocktail, obviously, but by our consent to murder — even if we call it justifiable — we are part of the lion’s den. This is what concerns me most.