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State & National

Failed execution a problem for N.C.
Okla. mishap focuses on death penalty
Published Friday, May 2, 2014 9:13 am
by Stephanie Carroll Carson, N.C. News Service

RALEIGH – Details are still emerging about what's being called a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma earlier this week. 

While North Carolina is thousands of miles away, people on both sides of the death penalty debate are keeping a close eye on developments, since several lawmakers in this state have declared their intention to restart executions, after an eight-year standstill. Duke University law professor Jim Coleman points out their intentions don't match the will of the people.

"I think North Carolina has been fine in the eight years that we've not had executions and I don't think trying to resume them, particularly in light of what happened in Oklahoma, is anything that the public wants any part of," he stresses. 

Death sentences have been on the decline in North Carolina in recent years, and questions about evidence collected in the state crime lab as well as racial issues surrounding sentencing have prompted some to question whether the punishment should continue.

If North Carolina resumed lethal injections, the Department of Corrections would be limited in what drugs would be available to it since many drug companies have demanded their products not be used in executions. Coleman and others allege using off-label drugs could have led to the problem this week. 

"They're, in effect, now going on the black market to find drugs so that they can carry out these executions," he says. "And I don't think there's any cause for the kind of hasty action that they're taking."

The Oklahoma inmate involved in the execution this week - Clayton Lockett - lived for 43 minutes after the first lethal injection was administered. Earlier this year, an Ohio death-row inmate gasped and convulsed for 10 minutes before dying from his drug cocktail.

Last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court tried to stop the execution, concerned about drugs to be used in the lethal injection. But the state's governor - Mary Fallin - ordered the execution to continue and several lawmakers threatened the justices with their jobs.

"When they were threatened with impeachment and then the governor intervened in a clearly illegal fashion, claiming that she could overturn the court's stay," Coleman says, "I think it made a mockery of the judicial system."



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