The power of life and death is permitted to certain civil magistrates because theirs is the responsibility under law to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment [Thou shall not kill], such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the State is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent lives.
Catechism of the Council of Trent
Stephanie Neiman was murdered just shy of 15 years ago. She had just graduated from high school. She was an only child, beloved of her parents. By all accounts she was hard working and fearless. She was a Vacation Bible School volunteer so I assume she was religious. This is how she died:
Stephanie Neiman was proud of her shiny new Chevy truck with the Tasmanian Devil sticker on it and a matching “Tazz” license plate.
Her parents had taught the teenager to stand up for “what was her right and for what she believed in.”
Neiman was dropping off a friend at a Perry residence on June 3, 1999, the same evening Clayton Lockett and two accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery there. Neiman fought Lockett when he tried to take the keys to her truck.
The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman didn’t back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police.
The men had also beaten and kidnapped Neiman’s friend along with Bobby Bornt, who lived in the residence, and Bornt’s 9-month-old baby.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong. Maybe that’s what Clayton was so scared of, because Stephanie did stand up for her rights,” her parents later wrote to jurors in an impact statement. “She did not blink an eye at him. We raised her to work hard for what she got.”
Steve and Susie Neiman asked jurors to give Lockett the death penalty for taking the life of their only child, who had graduated from Perry High School two weeks before her death.
Lockett later told police “he decided to kill Stephanie because she would not agree to keep quiet,” court records state.
Neiman was forced to watch as Lockett’s accomplice, Shawn Mathis, spent 20 minutes digging a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road. Her friends saw Neiman standing in the ditch and heard a single shot.
Lockett returned to the truck because the gun had jammed. He later said he could hear Neiman pleading, “Oh God, please, please” as he fixed the shotgun.
The men could be heard “laughing about how tough Stephanie was” before Lockett shot Neiman a second time.