Obama: Death penalty 'deeply troubling'

Obama: Death penalty 'deeply troubling'
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President Obama on Friday called the practice of the death penalty “deeply troubling” in the wake of a handful of botched executions that have raised new questions about capital punishment. 
 
Obama said he has not been opposed to the death penalty “in theory,” because cases exist where perpetrators are convicted of crimes that “are beyond the pale.”
 
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But he said evidence of racial bias, long wait times on death row and wrongful convictions have caused him to question whether the death penalty is a just form of punishment. 
 
“So, I have not traditionally been opposed to the death penalty in theory,” Obama said in an interview with The Marshall Project’s Bill Keller. “But in practice, it’s deeply troubling.”
 
Obama said his position on the death penalty is something he has “struggled with for quite some time.” He noted that he asked the Justice Department to conduct a review of capital punishment in response to botched executions that attracted national headlines in 2014.
 
Last April in Oklahoma, convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett writhed and moaned after received a lethal injection, dying 43 minutes later. The incident sparked several states to suspend executions by lethal injection.
 
“We’ve had recent cases that by any standard it has not been swift and painless, but rather gruesome and clumsy,” Obama said. “And all of this has led me to express some very significant reservations. I’ve asked the Department of Justice, White House counsel’s office to take a hard look at the facts.”
 
But the death penalty review, which began in May 2014 under former Attorney General Eric Holder, appears to have stalled. 
 
“It turns out I’ve got a whole lot of other things to do as well,” Obama told Keller about the status of the review. 
 
Obama is taking a second look at the death penalty in the midst of a push to reform the criminal justice system. 
 
There were signs of movement in Congress on Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would reduce certain mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. But Obama is also taking steps to act on his own. 
 
With just 15 months left in his term, the president said he is also looking to speed up the pace of pardons and clemencies. 
 
Obama has commuted the sentences of 89 inmates during his presidency, mostly for nonviolent drug offenders who received lengthy prison sentences.