, Muskogee, OK

February 24, 2014

THE PEOPLE SPEAK - Governor should halt executions in state

— In 1976, a young state representative, Bill Wiseman of Tulsa, wrote a bill that made Oklahoma the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.

The 32 death penalty states use that method. Wiseman hoped to make executions more humane and used grisly color photos of men killed in Colorado’s electric chair to pass the bill. Does his lethal injection violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments?

We have new evidence that lethal injection causes excruciating, if invisible, pain. On Jan. 9 in McAlester, Michael Lee Wilson was executed with drugs. Wilson remained fully conscious as lethal drugs were injected. His last words were, “I feel my whole body burning.” No other peckerwood being executed has offered proof that legal injection is painful.

Since Wilson has told us that it is painful, executions should be halted and Gov. Mary Falling should clear the 50 men and one woman death row inmates and commute their death sentences to life in prison without parole.

Seven governors have done just that: Gov. Lee Cruce of Oklahoma, 1911-15; Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller of Arkansas, 1970; Gov. Toney Anaya of New Mexico, 1986; Gov. Richard Celeste of Ohio, 1991; Gov. George Ryan of Illinois, 2003; Gov. John Corzine of New Jersey, 2007; and Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, 2011. I don’t want a governor to torture and kill folks on my behalf.

In one of his last sermons as an Episcopal priest before he was killed in a plane crash, Wiseman suggested we follow Psalm 102: “For the Lord looked down from his holy place on high; from the heavens he beheld the Earth; that he might hear the groan of the captive and set free those condemned to die.”