Oklahoma ‘ineptitude’ in execution blamed for lower support, implementation of death penalty

A report from death penalty analysts shows that this year there was the lowest number of executions in a half-century



Massoud Hayoun
New York
Wednesday 16 December 2015 23:30

The United States saw the fewest executions this year since 1991, a new report says.

And the report’s author says Oklahoma’s “ineptitude” in a mix-up over lethal injection drugs helped lower both support for and the implementation of the death penalty.

The US executed 28 people as of December 15, according to a report from Washington-based capital punishment think tank Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) published Wednesday. Of those executions, 80 per cent happened in Texas (13 executions), Missouri (6) and Georgia (5), DPIC said.

The number of death sentences decreased, with a total of 49 handed out across the nation, a 33 per cent decrease since last year.

Riverside County in California handed down 16 per cent of all death sentences — more capital sentences than any state except Florida, the report added.

At least 70 death row inmates’ executions were stayed, the report shows.

“These are major declines. They show that support for the death penalty in the united states continues to erode,” DPIC director and the author of the report Robert Dunham told The Independent. Dunham said that while there has been no direct causal relationship established in studies between popular support for and implementation of the death penalty, studies have shown that capital punishment sentencing and executions rise and fall with popular opinion.

A Pew Research poll in April showed that support for the death penalty was at a 40-year low.

“I think the one thing that happened in 2015 that most clearly raised the question about whether you could trust the states to carry out the death penalty competency was Oklahoma’s botched executions,” Mr Dunham said.

Oklahoma in October halted all executions pending an investigation after the state found that they had used a lethal injection drug not included in their protocol to execute inmate Charles Warner.

In the Warner execution, Oklahoma exhibited “a stunning level of ineptitude that feeds into the growing perception especially among conservatives that this is a policy you can’t trust the states to get right,” Mr Dunham added.”

The Oklahoma Corrections Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

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