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USA: New report shows 2022 was 'year of botched executions'


Source: CMN

A new report released today by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) describes 2022 as "the year of botched executions."

"Evidenced by the details in the Death Penalty Information Center's 2022 Annual Report, there have been numerous botched and problematic executions this year," said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Executive Director of Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN). "In multiple states, these botched executions have led to an evaluation of the ethicality and efficacy of state-sanctioned death. Such reviews are often hidden behind a veil of secrecy."

In November 2022, all Alabama executions were put on hold for a "top-to-bottom" review of the state's lethal injection protocol. Governor Kay Ivey issued this order following the back-to-back failed executions of Alan Miller and Kenneth Smith.

"As a state that sees itself as standing for life, reevaluating its insistence on the death penalty is an important step towards pro-life consistency," said Vaillancourt Murphy.

Similarly, in May, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee paused all executions for the remainder of 2022 and ordered an "independent review" of the state's execution protocol amid concerns of mistakes and questionable conduct surrounding lethal injections.

As the DPIC report makes clear, the handful of states which continue to use the deadly practice of capital punishment are outliers. More than half of this year's executions were reported to take place in Oklahoma and Texas.

"The insistence on death by the handful of states which continue executions lacks regard for the grotesque manner at which that death is often achieved," said Vaillancourt Murphy. "And in the several instances of failed executions this year, there has been limited acknowledgment of that trauma which such an encounter with death inflicts."

The vast majority of states no longer have any interest in executions. Nationally, 37 states have either completely outlawed the death penalty or have otherwise gone more than 10 years without an execution. Additionally, DPIC reports that this was the eighth consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions and 50 new death sentences.

There are many reasons for this trend, but most come down to an increased awareness of the systemic failures endemic to our capital punishment system - failures like racial bias, wrongful conviction, and the targeting of vulnerable populations like individuals with intellectual disabilities or histories of trauma and abuse. We are seeing a growing consensus among Catholics and people of goodwill who reject the false notion that a death sentence brings any sort of true justice.

The Catholic Church in the United States has long stood firmly in opposition to the death penalty. Pope Francis, himself, has been an outspoken pastoral leader on this issue, catalyzing the revision of the catechism in 2018 to clarify the Church's position on capital punishment as "inadmissable" in all cases. Just three months ago, the Holy Father declared global death penalty abolition as his monthly prayer intention.

"The reality is that even on balance as states across the country increasingly distance themselves from the death penalty, we also see some states digging in," said Vaillancourt Murphy. "Part of the work of dismantling this archaic system of death in this country requires us to look at our national addiction to punitive measures and retribution. Let's be honest: states that pursue executions employ immoral acts of vengeance."

This year-end report does not issue only bad news; 2022 saw several great advances to death penalty abolition.

With just days remaining in 2022, Oregon's outgoing governor, Kate Brown, commuted the death sentences of all 17 people on the state's death row. It has been made clear that in the coming week, the Governor of Nevada wishes to do the same.

"With hope, this kind of courageous leadership will inspire others at the state and federal level in 2023," said Vaillancourt Murphy.

And in April, Kentucky became the second state in the nation to pass a bill excluding the use of the death penalty for people with serious mental illness.

2023 will require the continued mobilization of Catholics around the issue of the death penalty. "Oklahoma is a key focus area; the state is in the thick of an execution spree that threatens to claim the lives of 25 individuals before Christmas 2024," said Vaillancourt Murphy. "Already, three men have been killed in this march towards death, in addition to the two men Oklahoma executed at the beginning of 2022."

"Indeed, 2022 has had its share of welcome death penalty abolition successes as well as new challenges. But this we know: we are stronger than ever in working with fierce determination and grounded hope toward more life-affirming approaches to justice," said Vaillancourt Murphy.


Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of goodwill to value life over death, to end the death penalty, to transform the US criminal justice system from punitive to restorative, and to build capacity in U.S. society to engage in restorative practices. CMN works in close collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is a founding member of the Congregation of St Joseph Mission Network.

LINKS

Death penalty report 2022: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/dpic-reports/dpic-year-end-reports/the-death-penalty-in-2022-year-end-report

Pope's Prayer Video - For the abolition of the death penalty: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU_zOIpBlLw

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