Increasing pressure against the death penalty may have led to Oklahoma's bungled execution

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Marco Werman: The White House commented today on last night's botched execution in Oklahoma. Spokesman Jay Carney said "It fell short of the human standards required for the procedure." The execution for convicted murderer clayton Locket was halted after Locket began to thrash and grit his teeth. He'd already been injected with chemicals, though it's not clear which ones had in fact entered his bloodstream. The death row inmate later died anyway, reportedly from a massive heart attack. This execution was the first in Oklahoma using a new combination of lethal injection drugs. State officials won't say where the drugs came from, but in recent years the chemicals used for lethal injection have become scarce in this country as European suppliers opposed to the death penalty have refused to sell them to the US. The United States is one of six countries that use lethal injection as a method of execution. The others are China, Guatemala, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. Marco Perduca is with Hands Off Cain, an anti-death penalty group that tracks executions around the globe. He's in Rome. Marco Perduca: I think unfortunately this is the first example of the new approach that some US states have taken to the issue of lethal injection. They are resorting to compounding pharmacies and also imposing state secrets on the quality of the chemicals they're getting. Instead of addressing the issues related to the 8th amendment to the US Constitution that prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment, they want to pursue executions in a way that is quite illegal, I would say. It's actually the result of a campaign that we launched five years ago against those that produce this kind of medicines, like Pentothal and others. But the way in which some US states have reacted is not necessarily in line with the US Constitution. Werman: You mention the 8th amendment to the Constitution, inhuman and degrading treatment. Are you referring to the use of chemicals for lethal injection or are you referring to capital punishment generally? Perduca: I would say generally but certainly the way in which it is administered today imposes additional and unusual pain and treatments to people that have been sentences to death. One has the right to die according to the law, where the law actually provides capital executions. This imposes unnecessary sufferings to the sufferings of the loss of life. Werman: You say that the case of Clayton Locket is just the first example of the problems that lethal injection poses. Are you expecting more incidents like this? Perduca: If nothing changes after this horrible story, I am afraid that without having the possibility to double check all the qualities of these chemicals that are used prior to the lethal injection, things that can't happen again in the other ten - well, it's 32 states that still have lethal injections in the US unfortunately, but only ten that have imposed secrecy laws. Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma have these laws and they could have the same kind of problem next time around. Werman: Would you characterize the situation last night as the result of Oklahoma not being able to get the chemicals it needed, so it just tried devising another cocktail with available ingredients and that essentially failed? Perduca: Yes, I would say so. Werman: You've been a campaigner along with your group, Hands Off Cain, to get countries in Europe not to export the chemicals used in lethal injections. Why do you fight this battle? Why is it important to you? Perduca: We believe that that was the part that was needed to not only block a lot executions in the United States or anywhere else these chemicals are being used but also to open a debate on the way which you actually want to administer the death penalty and on the death penalty altogether. In 2014, there's no single study that documents the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent, so why should we continue to use it? We are trying to use any possible way to block executions and open a political debate on the effectiveness and, to a certain extent, the legality of the death penalty. We believe that for three or four years we have been able to have a very big impact on the United States in terms of the number of executions, which in fact went down over the last couple of years. Now, unfortunately, they're still going up but at least some people have started to look at this issue in a different way. Werman: Marco Perduca with the anti-death penalty organization, Hands Off Cain, speaking with us from Rome, Italy. Thank you very much for your time. Perduca: Thank you.