President Barack Obama said the botched execution of an Oklahoma prisoner is “deeply troubling” and he’s asking the U.S. attorney general for an analysis of what steps can be taken to avoid such errors.
There have been “significant problems” in carrying out the death penalty, including instances of racial bias and cases where the inmate was later found to be innocent because of new evidence, he said at a White House news conference.
“All these do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied,” Obama said. “I think we do have to, as a society, ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions around these issues.”
Prison officials in Oklahoma were carrying out a death sentence on Tuesday against Clayton Lockett, convicted of murder and sexually assaulting two teenage women, one of whom Lockett shot twice before she was buried alive.
A technician had trouble finding a suitable vein to administer lethal drugs through an IV. The injection was administered through the groin, but Lockett convulsed violently and the execution was halted. He died about 10 minutes later of a heart attack.
There are cases where crimes are “so terrible” that the death sentence is appropriate, Obama said. “What happened in Oklahoma is deeply troubling” and raises “significant questions” on how the death penalty is applied.
Obama said he plans to talk with Attorney General Eric Holder and others for an analysis of how the death penalty is applied and what steps can be take to avoid errors.