With the recent lethal injection debacle in Oklahoma what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment jumped back into death penalty spotlight. The botched execution of Clayton Lockett sparked debate about the use of untested drug cocktails. Lockett lived for 43 minutes after administered the first drug, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. According reporters, Lockett managed to say, "Man," "I'm not," and "something's wrong." Others at the scene said that Lockett was still alive and lifted his head before prison officials shut the blinds so onlookers couldn't see. Lockett is just one among many whose execution went terribly wrong.
Below is a brief overview of the horrific incidents regarding the death penalty:
Christopher J. Newton—Newton laid on the gurney 90 minutes while medics trying to find a vein stabbed him at least ten times until they found it. Newton was granted a bathroom break the search took so long. When the drug cocktail was administered, witnesses reported that Newton’s stomach heaved his chin and mouth twitched and he suffered at least two mild convulsions on the gurney. It took Newton sixteen minutes to die nearly twice time considered normal.
Brian Steckel—Steckel was wide-awake for twelve minutes when the injection machine malfunctioned. The machine was switched to the backup line, but the sedative drug was not administered and Steckel remained conscious as the paralytic pancuronium bromide took effect. Heart-stopping potassium chloride was then injected leaving Steckel unable to move or talk while drug flowed through his body. Technicians described the feeling as “having your veins set on fire.”
William Kemmler—Kemmler was the first man in the world to be executed by electric chair. When the switch was thrown, Kemmler’s body became rigid and ten seconds later Kemmler was declared dead. However, one of the doctors noticed a cut on Kemmler’s hand was bleeding indicating that he was still alive. The current was restarted in order to finish the job. Fluid seeped from Kemmler’s mouth and ran down his beard as he began to groan repeatedly and loudly as he started to regain consciousness. Again, the electricity was restarted and Kemmler once again convulsed, ceasing the noise coming from his lips as he died. Even though Kemmler was dead a sizzling sound that sounded like meat cooking steamed from the chair filling the room with smoke that smelled as if hair was burning.
Jimmy Lee Gray—Gray sat in the death chair as the cyanide crystals were dropped into a dish beneath him containing sulphuric acid and distilled water, creating the lethal gas. As the gas reached his lungs, he began to choke and gag for about eight minutes. Then, Gray’s unrestrained head began to smash into a steel pole placed directly behind the death chair. Witnesses counted eleven groans from the dying man. The prison maintained that Gray had died painlessly and was brain dead by the time he began his self-destructive episode.
George Painter—Painter stood over the gallows trapdoor with a white hood over his head. Then the trap door swung open dropping his body through. After the rope became taut, it snapped and sent Painter's body crashing to the ground. Jailers carried Painter’s body back to the platform where doctors confirmed that his neck had snapped, but he was not dead.
Then, while a new rope was being placed around Painter's neck blood began to turn the hood quickly turned the white gown the same color. As the blood flowed, the trap door sprung once more and Painter’s body dropped through a second time. This time, he died.
Tom Ketchum—Ketchum dropped through the gallows trap door and fell directly to the ground as the rope was too long for a man of his size. In addition, the rope was also thin and cord-like. Nevertheless, the execution was a success as thin rope sliced through Ketchum's neck slicing his head off, which was followed by an eruption of blood from his headless body.
Wallace Wilkerson—Wilkerson was seated on a chair about thirty feet from the shooters after declining a blindfold and restraints. A small white square was pinned over Wilkerson’s heart as a target. Then, Wilkerson took a deep breath and drew himself up straight in the chair. The action moved the square an inch or two upward just before the executioners fired. One bullet shattered his left arm, while the rest punched into his torso, failing to instantly kill the man. Wilkerson, meanwhile, leapt from the chair and hit the ground screaming “Oh my God! My God! They have missed!” Wilkerson bled out from his wounds twenty-seven minutes later.
Later in the week, I'll post an essay about religiosity and the death penalty, including the stance of religious denominations.
 Timeline of Newton execution, Akron Beacon Journal, Associated Press, May 25, 2007
 Brian Steckel, the Driftwood Killer Executed, The News Journal, November 4, 2005
 Marlee Macleod, The Electric Chair, <crime library>, Criminal Minds and Methods, http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/not_guilty/chair/5.html
 Donald A. Cabana, Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner, UPNE, 1998, page 8
 Robert Loerzel, The Murder Case of George Painter, Alchemy of Bones: Chicago's Luetgert Murder Case of 1897, University of Illinois Press, May 29, 2007
 Jeffrey Burton, Dynamite and Six-Shooter, Sunstone Press, 2007
 Gilbert King, Cruel and Unusual History, The New York Times, April 23, 2008