TIME justice

Obama Calls for Death Penalty Inquiry After Oklahoma Execution

Barack Obama
Charles Dharapak—AP President Barack Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 2, 2014.

Lawmakers are defending the death penalty after President Obama called for a Justice Department inquiry into the practice, following a botched execution in Oklahoma. State Rep. Mike Christian suggested executions should be carried out by any means possible

President Barack Obama called for a Justice Department inquiry into the application of the death penalty nationwide after the botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate Tuesday.

In his first public comments on the execution of Clayton Lockett, Obama called the grisly incident in which the convicted murderer convulsed violently and died of a heart attack 43 minutes after being given a lethal injection “deeply troubling.”

Obama said the death penalty is appropriate in some cases, including mass murder and child murder, but he said the use of executions often reflects racial bias, and pointed to the exonerations of death row inmates, the Associated Press reports.

“[T]his situation in Oklahoma I think just highlights some of the significant problems there,” he said.

(TIME: Every Execution in U.S. History in a Single Chart)

Obama said he is asking Attorney General Eric Holder to analyze the death penalty’s application, and the Justice Department is reportedly examining how executions are carried out rather than issues of race and wrongful convictions.

The Justice Department announced it is placing a moratorium on federal executions while the investigation is underway.

Lockett was already a four-time felon when he was convicted of murder, rape, kidnapping and burglary in 2000. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called for an investigation and a stay on the execution of Charles Warner, scheduled to be killed by the same drug cocktail that caused Lockett the apparent protracted suffering.

Some lawmakers flocked to defend the death penalty.

“I realize this may sound harsh,” said Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Christian, a Republican lawmaker who pushed to have state Supreme Court justices impeached for briefly halting Tuesday’s execution. “But as a father and former lawman, I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions.”

The White House implied on Wednesday that Lockett’s protracted death may have violated the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment established in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team