A bungled execution in Oklahoma in which the condemned prisoner writhed and moaned as he received a lethal injection outraged death-penalty opponents, invited court challenges, and attracted worldwide attention.
But the inmate’s agony alone is highly unlikely to change minds about capital punishment in the nation’s most active death-penalty states, where lawmakers say there is little political will to move against lethal injections — and a single execution gone wrong won’t change that.
Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian, a Republican lawmaker who pushed to have state Supreme Court justices impeached for briefly halting Tuesday’s execution, was unsparing.
“I realize this may sound harsh,” Christian said, “but as a father and former lawman, I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine, or being fed to the lions.”
Attorneys for death-row inmates hope Tuesday’s spectacle provides new evidence to argue that the injections are inhumane and illegal. But beyond the courtroom, support for capital punishment is undeterred in the states that perform the greatest number of executions — Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio. And nowhere in those places are any elected officials of either political party talking seriously about using the incident to seek an end to executions.