While our reliance on capital punishment continues to decline, this has only served to illuminate its increasing cruelty—and the incompetence of its practitioners.

by Matt Ford, The New Republic

The American death penalty continued its long statistical and moral decline in 2022. State governments executed 18 people in the United States this year, one of the lowest totals since the 1970s. Of those executions, roughly one-third could be considered botched, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, or DPIC, a nonprofit organization that studies capital punishment.

“As the systemic flaws of the death penalty have become clearer and more pronounced, it is being regularly employed by just a handful of outlier jurisdictions that pursue death sentences and executions with little regard for human rights concerns, transparency, fairness, or even their own ability to successfully carry it out,” the organization said in its end-of-year report on the death penalty.

An empty electric chair at the end of the a room, black and white

Alabama halted executions earlier this year after Governor Kay Ivey ordered a review of the state’s execution policies in the wake of a series of botched executions in that state. One of the prisoners, Joe Nathan James, died three hours after his execution began—the longest such timeline in American history. According to an independent autopsy commissioned by his family and medical experts who reviewed the case, James’s body was covered in bruises and puncture sites where the execution team had apparently tried and failed to insert an IV. He also showed signs of physical trauma and apparent sedation, leaving him unresponsive when brought before witnesses for the execution itself.

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