President Barack Obama said the botched execution in Oklahoma had prompted him to investigate the implementation of the death penalty nationwide.
“What happened in Oklahoma was deeply troubling,” the president said during a joint presser with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in response to a journalist’s question.
On Tuesday, the state of Oklahoma used an untested drug on Clayton Lockett, 38, and the execution went horribly wrong. Lockett was visibly awake and struggling during the execution and said “something’s wrong,” according to eyewitnesses. The execution took 43 minutes. Corrections officials said the intravenous line in the man’s arm had blown; he later died of a heart attack.
“I’ll be discussing with Eric Holder and others to get me an analysis of what steps have been taken not just in this instance, but more broadly in this area,” the president said of the botched execution. “We do have to, as a society, ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions.”
The president reaffirmed his support of the death penalty in certain instances, but cited concerns about the implementation of capital punishment.
“The individual had committed heinous crimes, terrible crimes, and I have said in the past that there are certain circumstances where a crime is so terrible that the application of the death penalty may be appropriate,” the president said.
Lockett was convicted of kidnapping a girl, shooting her, and ordering his accomplices to bury her alive in 1999.
“I’ve also said that in the application of the death penalty in this country we have seen significant problems, racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, situations in which there were individuals on death row who were later on discovered to be innocent,” he said. “All these do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.”
Obama said the Oklahoma incident “highlights some of the significant problems” with capital punishment.