Large Majority of Americans Favor Capital Punishment Despite Botched Execution

At the beginning of May, Barack Obama criticized the use of lethal injection to execute criminals because of a botched injection in Oklahoma, but the majority of Americans still believe that the death penalty is appropriate. 

According to a new NBC News poll, 59% of Americans still think the death penalty should be the ultimate punishment for murder, with only 35% against it.

The poll also found that two-thirds of voters think methods of execution other than lethal injection would be preferable, but only one-third of respondents feel that if lethal injections are a problem, executions should be stopped. There was a wide variety of preferences for execution: 20% of voters preferred the gas chamber, 18% the electric chair, 12% the firing squad, and 8% preferred hanging.

Obama was protesting the injection given on April 29 to Clayton Lockett, a black man, who appeared to regain consciousness during the procedure and exhibit signs of pain. This forced the procedure to stop, but Lockett died soon after. Obama said of the incident, “What happened in Oklahoma is deeply troubling.”

According to ABC News, Obama said he had issues with the procedure, citing “significant problems,” including the problems with lethal injection, racial bias, and uneven application of the death penalty. Obama said he had directed the Justice Department to launch an “analysis of what steps have been taken, not just in this particular instance, but more broadly in this area.”

NBC made sure to note in its analysis of its own poll that middle-aged and older WASPs were to be singled out for their bloodthirstiness: Republicans, whites, Protestants, and older people were more likely to favor execution than Democrats, blacks and Latinos, Catholics, and young people.

ABC described what brought Lockett to execution:

Lockett was already a four-time felon when he was convicted by a jury in 2000 of murder, rape, kidnapping, burglary and other charges and received his death penalty sentence. The murder victim was 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, who came upon Lockett and two accomplices as they were beating a man in front of his 9-month-old son during a robbery.

Neiman and a friend came to the house while the robbery was in progress, and the robbers bound the two women with duct tape and raped Neiman’s friend. The three men then drove all four victims, including the baby, to a remote area, where Lockett shot Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun after she refused to say she wouldn’t report them to police. Lockett then watched as his two accomplices buried her alive.