The Associated Press
Last week’s botched execution in Oklahoma has again focused the nation’s attention on the death penalty.
Although support for capital punishment remains high in Mississippi, it is eroding steadily around the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, support for the death penalty last year had dipped to 55 percent, continuing a two-decade drop from 78 percent approval in 1996.
Support is probably even less today in light of the problematic execution of Clayton Lockett, in which the lethal injection went off so badly that Oklahoma prison officials closed the curtains to keep observers from watching the whole ordeal.
Prison officials blamed Lockett’s visibly painful end on a ruptured vein, although questions have also been raised about the untested nature of the drug cocktail administered to him and whether the prison used too little of the sedative designed to knock him out before the heart-stopping drugs were administered.
Prisons around the country have been forced to resort to new drug combinations and suppliers after several pharmaceutical companies — primarily in Europe — refused to allow their products to be used for executions.
With enough practice, the nation’s death rows should eventually get the drug protocol right, but that won’t resolve the main concerns about capital punishment: Is it necessary, effective and moral?
From a practical standpoint, the death penalty is of dubious value. Executing an inmate does not really save the taxpayers any money, given the costs of the years of appeals before a death sentence is carried out. By the time it does occur, whatever psychological deterrent it might provide to other violent crimes has been lost.
Also, as the list of proven wrongful convictions grows, including several on death row, so too do questions about the risks of taking the life of an innocent person. A study out last month claims that more than 4 percent of all current death row inmates are probably innocent.
More than anything else, though, the death penalty tends to diminish a society that countenances it when there are other reasonable alternatives, such as life imprisonment, that can punish a murderous offender while protecting society from him.
So far 18 states have banned the death penalty. A third of these have done so since 2007. Another seven states, although they still have the death penalty on the books, have issued moratoriums on executions or otherwise put them on hold.
(From the Greenwood Commonwealth)