How would you feel if a family member was about to be executed? What if that family member asked you to help the executioners put him to death? Would you help or turn away? These are among the questions The Execution of Saint Luke explores. Matthew is a doctor. His half-brother Luke is on death row soon to die by lethal injection. Luke asks Matthew to supervise his execution so that unlike the previous one it won’t be botched. Matthew believes it is unethical for physicians to take part in executions. He refuses his brother’s pleas. The Execution of Saint Luke is a story of two brothers who took very different paths. But when a life, perhaps even a soul, is at stake can hate ever turn into love?
The journey of this play begins with the execution of Clayton Darrell Lockett on April 29, 2014 in Oklahoma State Penitentiary, McAlester, Oklahoma. Locket, aged 38, died of a heart attack after a botched attempt to administer lethal injection. Lockett writhed and groaned in agony for forty-three minutes before expiring.
After reading of this shocking event, I wondered what kind of government and what kind of people do such awful things to other human beings in the name of justice. Lockett was convicted of kidnapping, murder, and rape. He deserved punishment. But is it moral or even reasonable that a country such as ours should be in the business of devaluing the worth and dignity of human life?
I also thought about the people who participate in lethal injections. In states that have death by lethal injection they either permit or require physician participation in executions. How do those doctors feel about it? Why do they do it? I did some research on this subject. The answers varied from physician to physician. I was not satisfied. I also wondered about the families of the condemned. How are they affected immediately and throughout the entire ordeal from arrest to death?
I decided to take an action I sometimes do whenever I ache to comprehend events that seem beyond my understanding. I started writing a play. The result is The Execution of Saint Luke. The play did not provide answers to my questions regarding issues of justice and morality or themes of forgiveness and family. What I hope the play does do is give those issues and themes human faces, human voices, and human passions.