Holder calls for halt to US executions
Attorney General Eric Holder called Tuesday for a national moratorium on the death penalty until the Supreme Court weighs in on the issue later this year.
“Our system of justice is the best in the world. It is comprised of men and women who do the best they can, get it right more often than not, substantially more right than wrong. But there’s always the possibility that mistakes will be made,” he said.
“It is one thing to put somebody in jail for an extended period of time, have some new test that you can do and determine that person was, in fact, innocent. There is no ability to correct a mistake where somebody has, in fact, been executed. And that is from my perspective the ultimate nightmare.”
Holder went on to say he disagrees with Justice Antonin Scalia, who has said the U.S. has never executed an innocent person.
“It’s inevitable,” he said during a luncheon at the National Press Club.
Late last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal the from death row inmates in Oklahoma who are challenging the state’s procedures for lethal injections.
“I think a moratorium until the Supreme Court makes that decision would be appropriate,” Holder said.
They case follows the execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, 38, who died of a heart attack after receiving the first part of the three-drug cocktail.
According to media reports, he writhed in pain and clenched his teeth before ultimately succumbing to cardiac failure. Lockett was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman in 1999 and watching as accomplices buried her alive.
President Obama called the botched execution “deeply troubling” and ordered a federal review of the country’s use of the death penalty, including state protocols for administering capital punishment.
Holder said the review is still underway.
“I don’t think it will be completed during my time as attorney general,” he said.
The Justice Department previously said Holder hoped to complete the review before he left office.