USA: THREE PERCENT OF EXECUTIONS SINCE 1900 WERE BOTCHED, STUDY FINDS
May 29, 2012: since the beginning of the 20th century, an estimated 3 % of all executions in the United States were "botched," according to Amherst College Professor Austin Sarat and a team of undergraduate researchers.
The group found that, of approximately 9,000 capital punishments that took place in the country from 1900 to 2011, 270 of them involved some problem in carrying out the death penalty.
"Given the gravity of the decision to put someone to death and the constitutional prohibition of cruel punishment," said Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, "the fact that 3 out of every 100 executions are messed up should be a cause of serious concern to all Americans." By culling through detailed and newspaper accounts of capital punishments that occurred over the past 111 years, Sarat and his team created a database of all of the mentions of what he describes as "departures from the protocol of killing someone sentenced to death." He explained that such departures included, among other things, instances in which inmates caught fire while being electrocuted, were strangled during hangings (instead of having their necks broken) or were administered the wrong dosages of specific drugs for lethal injections.
Sarat cited the case of Romell Broom in Ohio in September of 2009 as one recent example of a botched execution. Efforts to find a suitable vein through which prison officials could inject a lethal dose of drugs were terminated after more than two hours of trying. Broom repeatedly grimaced in pain throughout the excruciating process and even attempted, at points, to help his executioners find a vein. Finally, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland put a halt to the execution and ordered a one-week reprieve.
Sarat said: "Punishment tells us who we are. The way a society punishes demonstrates its commitment to standards of judgment and justice, its distinctive views of blame and responsibility, its understandings of mercy and forgiveness and its particular ways of responding to evil." "Sadly," he said, "our attachment to the death penalty reveals an unpleasant, unseemly side of American character." (Source: Science Daily, 29/05/2012)