Speaking Tuesday evening to the National Press Club, Attorney General Eric Holder said he supports a moratorium on the death penalty until the Supreme Court issues a ruling later this year on the Oklahoma lethal injection case currently before the justices:
“I think fundamental questions about the death penalty need to be asked. And among them, the Supreme Court’s determination as to whether or not lethal injection is consistent with our Constitution is one that ought to occur. From my perspective, I think a moratorium until the Supreme Court made that determination would be appropriate.”
The Supreme Court has agreed to review a case filed by inmates on Oklahoma’s death row. In their lawsuit, the inmates allege lethal injection violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The case was filed following the horrific execution of Clayton Lockett. It took a three-drug intravenous cocktail 43 minutes to kill Lockett.
Holder also said that he believes the best reason to eliminate the death penalty is the possibility of executing an innocent person:
“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. There’s always the possibility that mistakes will be made… It’s for that reason that I am opposed to the death penalty.”
The Attorney General stressed that he was speaking of his personal feelings about capital punishment and was not reflecting the positions of the Obama Administration.
In the past, Holder has remarked that the recent history of administering the death penalty is one of the main reasons he opposes it. As he told an audience at The Marshall Project just last year:
“I think that the issue is made real when you look at some of the things that have happened in the states over the last year or so, where you had these botched executions, where you had an inability to get the appropriate drug. We’ve had doctors unwilling to participate in the process. I think this is pushing this country toward some really fundamental questions about — even though, you know, people still support the death penalty by 55 percent, or whatever the number is — some fundamental questions about continued use of the death penalty.”
While Holder’s comments are certainly encouraging to those of us who oppose capital punishment, we will have to wait a little longer to discover if the Supreme Court agrees.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org