Obama Almost Comes Out Against The Death Penalty

Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
Barack Obama just came closer than ever before to flat-out opposing the death penalty. The president sat down with Bill Keller, editor of the criminal justice site The Marshall Project, who asked Obama if it's true his views on capital punishment are evolving.

“I understand society's need to express its outrage, so I have not traditionally been opposed to the death penalty in theory, but in practice it's deeply troubling,” he said. He touched upon issues of racial bias, inefficiency, overturned convictions, and the “gruesome and clumsy” process of the executions themselves.

Many of the stats regarding these procedural issues are indeed jarring. As noted by The Guardian in 2012, capital punishment is more likely to be doled out when a murder victim is white instead of a racial minority. Racial minorities also make up a 61% majority of the capital convicts who were later found innocent.

More recently, a botched execution of an Oklahoma convict took 18 minutes, during which time the condemned man, Charles Warner, appeared to be fully conscious and could be heard screaming, “My body is on fire!” In the wake of Warner's death, many have begun to question the humaneness of the drugs used to carry out capital punishment.

Obama also discussed broader criminal-justice reform he hoped to enact during his final months in office, including a need for better data to increase accountability and for rebuilt trust between law enforcement and the communities it serves. He described his personal experience with racial profiling, noting that these moments were not atypical for people of color in America.

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