Botched: How Oklahoma got away with murder

Oklahoma successfully tried to kill a man last night.  After writhing and groaning for 43 minutes, Clayton Lockett died. Almost universally, this has been translated into a “botched” execution. Democracy Now, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, CNN, Slate, and The Tulsa World all agree. The execution was “botched”.

The execution was not botched. It was successful. Oklahoma got exactly what it wanted, what it’s been pushing strenuously to get. A corpse. When it couldn’t get approved lethal drugs, Oklahoma insisted on using an untested combination of killer drugs. Oklahoma fought for the right to kill a human being last night, and it won.

Let no one tell you that that execution was botched. It wasn’t. It was ugly, but executions are ugly. It didn’t go exactly according to plan, but then what does? The end goal was attained, and that’s all that matters. To botch means to clumsily repair or to bungle. No one clumsily repaired or bungled the execution. Clayton Lockett is dead. If anything, by the performative terms of executions, it’s Clayton Lockett who botched his own death. Fortunately, the State was there to make sure the execution wasn’t botched.

A character in a novel once turned to his friend and exclaimed, “What should be displayed in public is something that‘s never shown. What the public really should see are – executions! Why don‘t they put on public executions?”

In Oklahoma last night, that’s just what they did.

In 1930, Georges Bataille suggested, “According to the Grande Encyclopédie, the first museum in the modern sense of the word (that is to say the first public collection) would seem to have been founded on 27 July 1793, in France, by the Convention. The origin of the modern museum would thus be linked to the development of the guillotine.”

What museum will emerge from the story of Oklahoma’s botched execution?

Nothing was botched last night, but a man was butchered to death.


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About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.