There are 30 states in the US where the death penalty is legal. However, prosecutors don’t seek the death penalty for every first-degree murder case. In fact, there are very specific criteria that need to be met for a person to be given a death sentence.
Read on to learn more about who can be sentenced to capital punishment, the importance of the execution of Clayton Lockett, and what methods of execution are used in Oklahoma.
Who Can Be Given a Death Sentence?
Those who commit first-degree murder always face the possibility of being sentenced to death. But there are also specific circumstances under which the death penalty is appropriate.
Attorneys at Talley Turner Bertman say “If a client is facing a murder charge, one of the first things we’re going to do is review the criteria for a capital punishment charge so we can do our best to defend our client in court.” The state of Oklahoma recognizes the following instances as being punishable by death:
- The murder itself was particularly heinous or cruel
- Murder-for-hire cases
- The victim was a member of law enforcement
- The murderer is a continued threat to society
- The murderer intentionally hoped to cause the deaths of more than one person
In addition to murderers being subject to the death penalty, individuals facing first-degree rape charges, kidnapping charges, and sodomy to a child under the age of 14 are also likely to face capital punishment if convicted.
The Execution of Clayton Lockett
The 2014 Clayton Darrell Lockett execution is quite important to the history of the death penalty in Oklahoma. Lockett was subjected to a nearly 35-minute extended execution after the paramedic and physician failed to correctly administer the IV of lethal drugs close to 12 distinct times.
Although the death penalty is legal, is should never cause the convict to suffer unduly or be tortured to death for their crimes. As such, OK put a hold on executions until protocol could be improved that would require the lethal injection drugs to be carefully regulated, unlike what occurred in the case of Lockett, who lived for 43 minutes after the procedure began, suffered a heart attack, and attempted on several occasions to rise from the table.
Methods of Execution in Oklahoma
As of March 2018, OK primarily uses a nitrogen gas inhalation as their primary method of execution, as it was found to be painless, inexpensive, and easy to administer. However, the state also allows for execution by lethal injection, electrocution, and even firing squad.