In a groundbreaking and highly controversial decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled to expand the applicability of the Humane Slaughter Act, designed to decrease the suffering of livestock during slaughter, to also encompass the human slaughter of death row inmates.
It was on this basis that the Court ruled that two death row inmates, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.
Attorney Seth Day, arguing on the inmates' behalf, contended that without knowing the source of the drugs, the public has no way of knowing whether the execution will be carried out in a "constitutional and humane manner."
The Court disagreed, opining that, in actuality, informing death row inmates of the company that produced the drugs that will be used to kill them would make their slaughter "less, not more, humane."
The Court went on to explicitly invoke the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires that in order for slaughter to be considered "humane," the death row animal must be "rendered insensible" by the use of physical force or by electrical or chemical means.
Until now, the Humane Slaughter Act has applied only to cattle, claves, horses, mules, sheep, and swine. Thus, the slaughter of chickens, turkeys, and other animals, such as humans, was not required to meet the "humane" standard.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court's ruling, however, changes all of that.
In an impassioned plea for preserving the integrity and humanity of Oklahoma's death penalty system, Chief Justice Tom Colbert wrote, "These human animals deserve no less humane treatment than we afford other beasts of the earth. Therefore, these animals, like other animals slaughtered for the pleasure or benefit of humans, must be rendered insensible prior to their slaughter by the State."
Chief Justice Colbert went on to explain that making such human animals aware of the producers of the drugs that will be used to end their lives would only raise their awareness of their unfortunate circumstances, running directly contrary to the aim of insensibility. As a result of the Court's recent ruling, death row inmates will remain "blissfully ignorant" of the source of these drugs.
In a footnote to its opinion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court clarified that its holding does not extend the applicability of the Humane Slaughter Act to poultry.
The Court has faced heated criticism since issuing the controversial ruling that the Humane Slaughter Act applies to human animals imprisoned and awaiting slaughter as well as to death row farm animals.
Questioning the validity of the Court's decision, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin stated, "It is no less a travesty of justice for the Court to hold that these two men, who committed heinous murders and thereby earned their death sentences, should be slaughtered as humanely as other, non-human, animals, who committed no wrongful act whatsoever to justify their imprisonment, torture, and execution."
Notably, the Court's ruling dissolves the previously granted stay of execution of Lockett and Warner, prompting speculation as to whether the two men will be executed on the same day. If so, this would mark Oklahoma's first same-day double-execution since 1937.
Governor Fallin, however, minimized the significance of such an event, pointing out, "In Oklahoma, we humanely slaughter animals by the million every day. This would just make two more."