May 2014

Botched Execution in Oklahoma – Could Have Happened in Oregon

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

In what witnesses and media outlets have reported as painfully botched, the failed execution in Oklahoma this week serves as a chilling reminder of the broken machinery of the death penalty in the United States. What happened in Oklahoma this week had the potential to happen in Oregon, were it not for Governor Kitzhaber’s decision in November of 2011 that no death sentence would be carried out in Oregon on his watch.

That’s because Oregon’s laws and regulations allow for a similar “three-drug cocktail” to the one that brought such gruesome results in Oklahoma. And Oregon’s guidelines raise the same kinds of unanswered questions around what specific lethal substances will be injected into the human being to be executed, where the drugs are coming from, if they’ve been tested, and the medical credentials of the person who administers the drugs. Oregon’s vague laws provide no guidance for monitoring the effects on the individual as the drugs are administered, nor do they outline contingency plans should anything go wrong.

Unfortunately the situation in Oklahoma this week was just another in a long list of botched executions that continue to be tolerated in this country.