We may not be quite there yet, but this new post by Kristin Collins of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (which originally appeared on the blog of the Center for Alternatives to the Death Penalty) does a great job of explaining how thoroughly dysfunctional the nation’s various death machinery systems have become.
The death penalty has been on the decline in the U.S. for more than a decade, but right now, capital punishment is imploding rather spectacularly in almost every state in the nation.
States are scrambling for lethal drugs, importing them from illegal foreign sources, and passing laws to keep their sources secret. Several executions have been called off with minutes or hours to spare because of faulty drugs. The handful of states still attempting to execute inmates, often with untested drug combinations, have created a spectacle of torturous botched executions.
Here is just a sampling of recent headlines:
Oklahoma, just months after the bloody and horrifying 45-minute execution of Clayton Lockett, accidentally executed a prisoner using the wrong drug. The error was discovered minutes before a second man was set to be executed with the same unapproved drug combination. Executions are now on hold indefinitely.
Ohio — after passing laws to keep the sources of its drugs secret, and failed attempts to obtain drugs from unregulated compounding pharmacies and illegal foreign sources — gave up and put executions on hold until 2017, saying it simply could not find the drugs it needed. Executions are now stalled in several states because of drug shortages.
Utah has again legalized the firing squad, to be used if the state is unable to find drugs for lethal injection.
Executions are now on hold in 16 states, including North Carolina, due to problems with lethal injection. They outnumber the small handful of states that still have a functioning death penalty.
North Carolina has been left out of this recent circus only because its lethal injection process fell apart a decade ago. Executions have been on hold here since 2006, after several lethal injections were carried out in violation of the state’s own protocols.
The state’s lethal injection procedures have been mired in lawsuits ever since, and a judge has said that no executions can be carried out until the lawsuit is settled. In 2014, the N.C. attorney general sought three executions, but the requests were blocked by the state courts.
Even states that once staunchly supported the death penalty are now asking whether it’s worth continuing to try to execute people. Unraveling this mess and finding a more perfect method of killing will take years and untold millions of dollars.
North Carolina surely has a better use for that time and money, especially since the death penalty does no more to keep us safe than sentencing offenders to life in prison.
Read NCCADP’s new overview of the issues surrounding lethal injection, and the reasons why executions cannot and should not resume in North Carolina with this torturous and error-prone method of killing.