1. Texas: Leading in Executions Despite Lower Murder Rates 2. Oklahoma: Resuming Executions Amidst Botched Controversy 3. Alabama: Executions Persist Despite Lethal Injection Failures 4. Mississippi: New Execution Drugs Amidst Legal Challenge 5. Missouri: Push for Abolition and Judicial Leeway Change
US Death Penalty Executions by Year
A good opening sentence draws the reader in and explains the topic. It can also be thought-provoking or startling.
In most states, a jury must decide whether a defendant should be executed. If the jury cannot agree, the judge will make the decision. Some states allow the general public to attend executions.
Since the Supreme Court reinstated executions in 1984, Texas has executed more people than any other state. That’s despite the fact that the murder rate in Texas is lower than the national average.
A growing number of states have abolished capital punishment, or amended their statutes to make it less onerous. However, there is no evidence that eliminating the death penalty would reduce murder rates or make us safer.
This year was the second consecutive year that the United States executed fewer than 30 prisoners, and the seventh straight year with a low number of botched executions. Seven visibly botched executions occurred in 2022, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (link is external). The most disturbing botched executions involved intravenous lines that were either inserted into veins too slowly or were clogged.
The states of Oklahoma and Texas accounted for half this year’s executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This year, US jurisdictions imposed just 20 new death sentences, and executions are at their lowest rate since 1991, DPIC reported.
That’s a trend that hasn’t halted in Oklahoma, which resumed executions this month after a seven-year moratorium that began with botched executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner. A new method of administering the surgical sedative midazolam has been used in the last two executions, but both men writhed and gasped during their deaths, leading to renewed debate over whether another moratorium is in order. Republican state Rep. Daniel Pae of Lawton says a moratorium could be the answer. He says he wants to break the false dichotomy that people must choose between being “soft on crime” or “tough on crime,” and that a middle ground exists that’s “smart on crime.” Pae also calls for transparency in prosecutorial decisions.
In 2022, Alabama executed 6 people — more than any other state – despite repeated failures of its lethal injection procedures and a botched execution attempt. Alabama refused to learn from its mistakes and make meaningful changes after the torturous, multi-hour execution of Joe James in July and the botched attempts to execute Alan Miller and Kenneth Smith.
Eddie Powell was executed for killing his daughter’s boyfriend and throwing his body off a rural South Alabama bridge, despite credible evidence that he has intellectual disability. The Supreme Court denied his appeal to vacate the district court’s injunction pending appeal in a one-page decision that did not address the merits of his claims.
Jeff Land was executed despite compelling evidence that he turned his life around on death row and became a peacemaker, according to prison guards who witnessed his transformation. The Court denied clemency in this case and other cases where federal courts have reviewed the prisoners’ constitutional claims.
A growing number of states have abolished capital punishment. But in Mississippi, it’s still on the books. It’s also where many of the country’s botched executions have taken place.
But it appears that may be changing. Parchman prison officials say they have a new batch of execution drugs that can be used to put prisoners to death. They’re hoping to use them soon.
But that’s unlikely. Loden is in the middle of a federal lawsuit filed by him and other death row inmates challenging Mississippi’s lethal injection protocol. It’s one of several such lawsuits across the country, filed as states struggle to obtain the drugs needed for executions, with some drug companies reportedly withholding the substances from state governments in order to avoid having their names made public.
Only Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia have executed more people than Missouri since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. But the state’s 97 executions are still relatively low among advanced Western democracies, and it remains a national outlier in its use of the death penalty.
Activists hope 2023 will be the year that lawmakers make small steps toward abolishing the death penalty in the state. They’re focused on eliminating the leeway that some states give judges to impose a death sentence even when a jury can’t agree.
This year, a three-judge panel of the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals halted an execution to allow for a hearing on whether an inmate was competent to be put to death. A similar argument has been raised about the mentally ill man who killed two jail guards in 2000.