2022 Will Go Down as the 'Year of the Botched Execution'

35% of those attempted were 'visibly problematic'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2022 5:00 PM CST
2022 Will Go Down as the 'Year of the Botched Execution'
This undated file photo provided on July 11, 2019, shows the new death row at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina.   (South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

Among the various things we'll remember 2022 for, death penalty researchers add an ignoble item to the list: botched executions, and a lot of them. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) in its year-end report found that the number of people who were executed in the US—18—was far lower than in years past, with the New York Times reporting the number stood at 98 in 1999. But 20 executions were attempted, and while two were botched and abandoned, the researchers describe seven of the 20, or "an astonishing 35%," as "visibly problematic." As such, "the fortieth anniversary of lethal injection could be known as 'the Year of the Botched Execution,'" they write, placing the blame on executioner incompetence, protocols that weren't adhered to, or problems in those protocols themselves.

The DPIC specifically calls out the July 28, 2022, execution of Joe James Jr. in Alabama, which involved a three-hour process to access a vein; photos from a private autopsy indicate his arm had been cut open in order to get to it. The DPIC calls it "the longest botched lethal injection execution in US history." Two executions that were attempted and then called off when an IV line couldn't be set before the expiration of the death warrant also occurred in Alabama; the governor in November halted executions in the state pending a review.

Thirty-seven US states have now done away with the death penalty or not executed anyone in more than 10 years, and for the 8th year in a row, fewer than 50 people were sentenced to death. But among the 20 who were sentenced to death in 2022, the DPIC sees the "the arbitrariness of capital punishment" at play. It described 25% of those sentenced to death as having significant trauma or brain damage, while "several highly aggravated murder cases," such as that of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter, ended with life sentences. This "belies the myth that the death penalty is reserved for the 'worst of the worst,'" it writes. (Read more execution stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.