Even as capital punishment in the US remains near a 30-year low, 2022 can definitely be called “the year of the botched execution” after a report has found that mishandled incidents made up a record more than a third of the total number of execution attempts.
The Death Penalty Information Center’s (DPIC) report shows that seven of the 20 execution attempts in 2022 were as a result of executioner incompetence, failures to follow protocols or defects in the protocols themselves.
Back in November, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey sought a pause in executions and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of Alabama’s capital punishment system after an unprecedented third failed lethal injection when an execution team reportedly struggled for hours to find a vein to execute the prisoner.
Arizona executioners also struggled earlier this year to insert an IV line into a man on death row who ended up guiding them himself on how to do so.
According to Robert Dunham, the executive director of DPIC, there were a number of called-off executions even before they got to the execution due to failures to comply with the state protocol,
Since the dataset was limited to incidents in which the prisoner was inside the execution chamber, Dunham also called the record number of botched execution attempts “conservative.”
He noted that while the US is moving away from the death penalty at the national level – for the eighth consecutive year, fewer than 50 new death sentences were imposed and fewer than 30 executions were carried out in 2022 – the states that are insistent on carrying out executions have been engaging in more and more extreme conduct.
Many of the difficulties this year were related to difficulty inserting an IV-line -18 people this year were executed by lethal injection in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi- which is not a medical procedure although it looks like one.
Among the reasons that lethal injection can be problematic, according to Dunham, is executioners’ lack of a medical background, the inadequate training executioners receive, but also the fact that people on death row disproportionately have health problems, making it difficult for staff to find a prisoners’ vein to administer the lethal drug.
The next execution nationwide is scheduled for Jan. 3 in Missouri where the first openly transgender woman is expected to be executed. Amber McLaughlin is on death row for killing an ex-girlfriend.