Sally Kohn argues that the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on Tuesday night should persuade Americans once and for all that the death penalty is immoral and unfair.
Here is an excerpt of her column from Vanity Fair:
According to a study reported in the Daily Beast, 3 percent of all executions between 1890 and 2010 were botched in one way or another: “from the slow strangulations and decapitations that occasionally occurred during hangings to the smoke and burning flesh of the electric chair to the agonizing death throes of those strapped to gurneys in lethal injection chambers.” Lethal injections in particular are more prone to errors—at least 7 percent do not go as planned.
And yet even if executions take place precisely as intended, we have to ask ourselves as a country not only whether those convicted of crimes deserve to die, but whether the state deserves the power to kill.
As is, the state is extremely sloppy with its criminal justice authority in general. The United States Sentencing Commission found that even when convicted of similar crimes, black men receive sentences almost 20 percent longer than white men. Other studies show that being a black defendant convicted of murdering a white victim dramatically increases the odds of being sentenced to death. While one-half of all murder victims are white, 80 percent of capital-sentencing cases involve white victims. In North Carolina, a defendant accused of killing a white person is three times more likely to be sentenced to die than a defendant accused of killing a black person. In Louisiana, the odds of receiving a death sentence are 97 percent higher in cases involving white victims than black victims. Meanwhile, African Americans are disproportionately sentenced to death row—that is, in a greater proportion than the percentage of crime for which they’re responsible.
Is she right?