Oklahoma’s problems with the death penalty have been well documented and pervasive. After multiple botched executions and a last-minute stay of execution from the Governor, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt launch a full scale investigation into the issue.
What this investigation found was incredibly disturbing and embarrassing. Among other widespread problems, the most alarming was the discovery that the Department of Corrections had been using potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.
In case your chemistry is rusty, potassium chloride is an approved chemical for lethal injection while potassium acetate is NOT an approved chemical.
Other mistakes found in the report included:
- Unauthorized oral modifications to protocol
- Failure to inspect lethal drugs in transport
- Multiple communication errors
No one has been indicted as a result of this report so far, but the investigation is ongoing.
This report has renewed conversations about the validity and permissibility of the death penalty. However, despite growing sentiment, former state prosecutor Lou Keel is still a firm believer in the death penalty.
“Some murders are so horrendous, so heinous that the only right and just punishment is the death penalty. Certainly, this is a process, as a society, that we have to get right. When you impose the ultimate sanction on people, it’s important this be done in the most humane way possible.”
Even Keel, who has sent around 15 people to death row, acknowledges the problems in the system and the need to make improvements.
Given the massive and repeated failures, it’s time to really evaluate if this is something our state can continue to do or if the death penalty should even be enforced. The state has already invested a considerable amount of time and money to create the current protocol, which is failing miserably.
Considering our state is very limited on resources right now, is it worth the cost to continue state-sponsored homicide?