President Obama has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to review the death penalty in the U.S. after the failed execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on April 29th.  The President noted concerns about innocence and racial bias in his order:

“In the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems – racial bias, uneven application…situations in which there were individuals on death row who later…were discovered to have been innocent…And all these…do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.”

The Department of Justice was already reviewing federal protocols.  Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the department, said, “At the president’s direction, the department will expand this review to include a survey of state-level protocols and related policy issues.”

The President called the events in Oklahoma “deeply disturbing.”  It is unclear exactly what happened as Oklahoma authorities investigate, but the inmate regained consciousness after being declared unconscious by a physician, the previously untested drugs protected by a state secrecy law then ran out without completing the execution, and Lockett died more than a half hour later of a heart attack after being granted a stay.  Witnesses said that he mumbled, writhed, and even may have suffered a seizure.  Early indications say that his vein “exploded”.

Gov. Mary Fallin stayed the execution of Charles Warner, which was scheduled to begin just two hours after Lockett’s. She said, “I have asked the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of Oklahoma’s execution procedures to determine what happened during this evening’s execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett.”

Deborah Denno, a lethal injection expert and law professor at Fordham Law School, said, “This is one of the worst botches that we’ve had. All of this was predictable and foreseeable. How many times does this have to take place? … We have all the evidence we need to show this is a highly problematic and potentially unconstitutional procedure.”

There have been more than 40 botched executions since the mid-80s most recently was in January of this year, Dennis McGuire was executed in Ohio.  He gasped for 25 minutes while the new combination of lethal drugs took effect.  He struggled, heaved, clenched his fists and made snorting and choking sounds.  His family filed a lawsuit saying that he “looked and sounded as though he was suffocating.”

  1. Lon Spector says:

    “Execute” the death penality.


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