April 30, 2014

Statement of ABA President James R. Silkenat on botched Oklahoma execution

CHICAGO, April 30, 2014 — In light of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on Tuesday night in Oklahoma, the American Bar Association renews its call that every jurisdiction that imposes capital punishment implement policies and procedures that ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly, impartially and in accordance with due process. 

Although the ABA takes no position on the death penalty per se or on Mr. Lockett’s case in particular, it does favor moratoriums on the use of capital punishment in jurisdictions where the death penalty is not fairly administered. Tuesday’s events were inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for meaningful due process and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court permits executions only when they do not present a substantial risk of pain and suffering. Given the circumstances Tuesday night, there appear to be abundant reasons for concern that this standard was not met.

Oklahoma should not attempt to execute another prisoner until a robust, independent investigation of Mr. Lockett’s execution has been completed and steps are taken to prevent another occurrence of this kind. These actions are essential to the integrity of a legal system that relies on justice and fairness.


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