In Death Penalty Debate, Remember the Victims

(Warning: this column contains descriptions of a violent crime and is unsuitable for children)
Last week, the state of Oklahoma conducted the lawful execution of Clayton Lockett, a man who was convicted of first degree burglary, assault with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, robbery by force and fear, forcible oral sodomy, rape and first degree murder.

A timeline released by the Department of Corrections shows what witnesses to the execution knew immediately: the process of death by lethal injection took too long.

To avoid a repeat of last week’s prolonged execution, I have asked Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson to conduct a thorough review of the events leading up to Lockett’s death. I have also asked the commissioner to develop a set of updated and improved execution protocols, and Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton to implement those protocols. While that process is taking place, the state of Oklahoma will delay its upcoming executions.

It is obvious that Lockett’s death has reignited a national debate over the death penalty. Some anti-death penalty advocates have even gone so far as to say that all Oklahomans have blood on their hands.

What these out-of-state pundits consistently forget to mention or even consider are Lockett’s victims. I would like to take this opportunity to remind them why Clayton Lockett found himself strapped to a gurney on April 29, and why the state of Oklahoma chose to take his life.

These are the facts, as agreed to by Lockett:

On June 3, 1999, Bobby Bornt was asleep on his couch at his home in Perry, Oklahoma, when his front door was kicked in. Clayton Lockett and two other men entered the house before beating Bornt with a shotgun. They duct taped his hands behind his back, gagged him and ransacked his house for drugs.

While Bobby Bornt was restrained, a female friend of his had the misfortune to arrive at the house (to protect her privacy I will not use her name). She was pulled inside by Lockett and his accomplices, beaten, and then ordered at gun point to call her friend, Stephanie Neiman, who was waiting outside in her pickup truck.

When Stephanie came inside she was also beaten. All three victims were then taken to a bedroom where Bobby Bornt’s nine month old son had been sleeping. The unnamed female victim was taken to two other rooms where she was raped – by both Lockett and an accomplice – in ways that are not fit to be printed.

All three victims were then loaded into two pickup trucks and taken to a rural, isolated area in Kay County. They stopped on a country road. Lockett took the unnamed female victim to the side of the road and again raped her. An accomplice then sexually assaulted her. “In order for you to live, this is what you have got to do,” he told her.

Meanwhile, one of Lockett’s accomplices dug a ditch. “Someone has got to go,” Lockett said.

Stephanie Nieman was taken to the ditch and Clayton Lockett shot her. His gun jammed. While Nieman lay wounded and screaming, Lockett fixed the gun, returned to the ditch and shot her again. While she lay in that ditch, still alive, an accomplice buried her.

A jury found Lockett guilty of these crimes, which he confessed to. A judge sentenced him to death. His legal appeals were heard and denied.

Lockett had his day in court. The state lawfully carried out a sentence of death. Justice was served. 

It is my hope that Stephanie Neiman’s family and friends, as well as Lockett’s surviving victims, have found some measure of closure and peace.

The people of Oklahoma do not have blood on their hands. They saw Clayton Lockett for what he was: evil. His execution means he will never again harm or terrorize another person.