The number of botched executions in the United States reached a record high in 2022, according to a report released by a non-profit capital punishment research group on Friday, even as the overall number of inmates put to death remained near a five-decade low.
Seven of the 20 executions attempted this year were “visibly problematic,” including one attempt at lethal injection that led to an unprecedented three-hour struggle to insert an intravenous (IV) line into an Alabama man, the Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report.
Two of the 20 executions attempts this year – both lethal injections in Alabama – were called off midway after officials tried and failed to establish IV lines, prompting the state’s Republican governor to call for a “top-to-bottom” review of the execution process.
Other scheduled executions were called off in Tennessee, Idaho and South Carolina when state officials discovered lapses in execution preparation or protocol, the report said.
The 18 executions that occurred in 2022 were the fewest in three decades, with the exception of the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 when many states paused or slowed executions. Outside the pandemic years, the 22 death sentences handed down in 2022 were fewer than in any prior year.
Thirty-seven U.S. states have abolished the death penalty or not executed anyone in more than a decade, so this year’s executions were highly concentrated in a few states, with more than half occurring in Oklahoma and Texas.
Oregon’s Democratic governor on Tuesday commuted the death sentences of the state’s 17 death-row inmates, leaving them to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, and directed officials to disassemble the state’s execution chamber.
Public support in the United States for executing prisoners hovered this year just one percentage point above a five-decade low reached in 2021, when 54% of respondents told a Gallup poll they supported capital punishment.
A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted in 2022 found even lower support for the death penalty, with just 46% respondents saying they supported it.