Do we trust Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s own staff to investigate what went wrong in the horrific botched execution of Clayton Lockett? In Andrew Cohen’s enlightening new piece for The Week, “After Oklahoma’s Botched Execution, Here Comes the Cover-Up,” he explains how an “independent” investigation of Clayton Lockett’s botched execution may not be so independent after all.
By now, we’re all familiar with the travesty that unfolded in Oklahoma last week; Lockett withered and moaned in pain for over forty minutes before finally dying of what was reportedly a heart attack, although the autopsy results are not yet in.
Gov. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) announced last week that an “independent” review of the botched execution will be conducted by the director of Oklahoma’s Department of Public Safety—a department under her executive umbrella. The real kicker is that DPS’s Commissioner, Michael Thompson, is a former employee of the Department of Corrections (one of the state entities that is at the center of this whole debacle) and was a witness to the execution himself. As Cohen says, “If Thompson were a judge, he would have to recuse himself.”
Cohen raises many important questions about this investigation that very much need to be answered if anyone is to pull up the curtains on the veil of secrecy that has surrounded Lockett’s execution since the beginning:
Does anyone think that Thompson, the newly appointed chief investigator, is going to question his boss under oath about her important role in this sorry story? Is he really going to issue a report that blasts her intervention in core judicial functions? Is he going to call members of the state legislature to explain and justify their impeachment proceedings? Is he going to explore the public rift now widening between state officials and the corrections officials’ union? If he does so, he will effectively end his career in state government. And if he does not, this “independent” investigation will be a sham.
The rest of Cohen’s article is worth a read here.
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons.