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

President Barack Obama weighed in for the first time Friday on the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma this week, calling the incident “deeply troubling.”

Speaking to reporters from the White House Rose Garden, Obama raised questions about the way the death penalty is applied in the United States, even as he said continues to believe the death penalty is warranted in particularly heinous instances. “In the application of the death penalty in this country we have seen significant problems: Racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, situations in which there were individuals on death row who were later discovered to be innocent because of exculpatory evidence,” Obama said, adding that the Oklahoma incident “highlights” the broader issue.

Obama said he will discuss the incident, and broader government policy toward the death penalty, with Attorney General Eric Holder. “I think as a society we have to ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions,” Obama said.

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