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Newspapers Around the World React to the Botched Execution in Oklahoma

Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

When Clayton Lockett’s execution was botched in Oklahoma last night, one might have expected the rest of the world to be shocked at the barbarity. Not only does the U.S., unlike most developed countries, execute its own citizens; we can’t even do it properly. But international coverage of the Lockett execution has thus far been more muted.

In China, the world death penalty leader, the event didn’t even register: Neither English language newspaper China Daily nor state press agency Xinhua covered the story.

Elsewhere, most news stories focused on the procedural side of the execution: how and why it all went wrong. Few media outlets veered much into criticism of the United States or Oklahoma. 

International outlets weren’t quite as quick to point out Lockett’s guilt as Americans were: While Oklahoma’s Tulsa World and NewsOK both referred to Lockett as a “convicted killer” upon first mention, The Guardian went with “condemned prisoner,” and Le Figaro called him, roughly, “the condemned.”

Canada’s The Globe and Mail played the story more prominently than most international outlets, and took a somewhat broader view: “The botched execution of a murderer in Oklahoma Tuesday is again highlighting the ongoing controversy stemming from a number of American states who are straining to continue with the death penalty despite a scarcity of drugs.” 

In Germany, while top weekly Der Spiegel did not cover the execution, Die Zeit’s story, under the headline “Man Dies in Agony after Botched Execution,” was the second-most read on its site.

Mixed in with all the concern about the technicalities of administering lethal drugs and a secondary interest in the technicalities of the U.S. appeals system’s options for recourse were a few humanizing moments. Spain’s El Pais noted that Lockett had uttered “oh, man,” during the procedure, and France’s Le Monde even translated that phrase to the French slang “mec.”

The English tabloid The Mirror ran a story about how the execution had gone wrong, but far more prominently featured was a piece about Lockett’s heinous crime: The headline offered the “Truth behind the shocking crime that put execution inmate Clayton Lockett on death row,” and the story was a play-by-play of the murdered murderer’s misdeeds.

The UK also provided by far the most outrage, by way of the Daily Mail. “Killer dies of heart attack after FORTY MINUTES writhing in agony and sitting up to say 'something's wrong' when experimental drug execution causes his veins to explode,” the Daily Mail reported.