The Reid Report   |  April 30, 2014

Death penalty debate back in the spotlight

Following a botched execution in Oklahoma, the national debate over capital punishment has been renewed. Sister Simone Campbell discusses this divisive topic.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good afternoon, everyone, i'm joy reid and this is the "the reid report." coming up, clippers owner donald sterling has been banned for life but can he be forced to sell the team? it could be an epic legal battle . plus, congressman paul ryan meets with the congressional black caucus to explain his inner city views. was anything accomplished or was it just more talk.

>>> a botched execution in oak oklahoma is renewing the legal debate of capital punishment .

>> his body continued to move, locking up, his head was lifting, tightening his muscles. he was exhaling.

>> he's still lifting his shoulders and head off the gurney, grimacing.

>> he was struggling but those are the words he got out, man, i'm not and something's wrong.

>> seemed like he was trying to get up. at 6:39 they lowered the blinds.

>> we didn't know what was happening on the other side of the blind. we didn't know if he was dying or pumping drugs in him.

>> governor mary fallen ordered a review of procedures in her state after the execution of clayton lockette went horribly wrong. you're looking at the state capitol in oklahoma city where any minute we're expecting to hear from the governor. the state had planned back-to-back executions last night using a new untested three-drug lethal injection combination. 38-year-old lockette was given the death sentence for the 1999 murder of a 19-year-old woman who was shot and buried alive. witnesses say soon after the drugs were administered, lockette began struggling violently, groaning and writhing. after several minutes officials pulled the curtain on the death chamber . lockette eventually died of a massive heart attack .

>> it was determined that he was sedated approximately seven minutes into the execution. at that time, we began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol. there was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect.

>> 46-year-old charles warner was scheduled to be put to death an hour later for the kidnapping and rain of an 11-month-old girl. but in the chaos following lockette's execution, governor fallen ordered a 14-day stay of the execution while officials evaluate the lethal dosage protocol. before last night that drug protocol had been the source of fierce legal debate . several companies are refusing to supply the drug because of growing backlash and threats of attack. they refused to make the names of their suppliers public. now, critics of the death penalty like the aclu of oklahoma are calling for a moratorium on executions altogether. joining me now, sister seimone sam bell, author of "a fnun on the bus." thank you for being here.

>> thank you.

>> in a case like this, sister, where you have a crime that is horrific.

>> yes.

>> a person for whom no one has sympathy but you have a process for the state, the state killing this person, is also horrific. how do you balance the justice being meated out to someone who everyone believes did it and the state not being involved.

>> for me as a person of faith, my faith teaches that all life is treasure, all life has dignity. and even the most horrific -- person who commits the most horrific crime has a dignity that should be respected. the state killing in my name is wrong. it is as horrible as any other murder. and so from my faith i say, no, capital punishment is not the way to go. what we've been trying to do is use these drugs so it masks the reality of killing this horrific event last night raised up the fact that is killing and it's wrong.

>> it takes me back to the thomas edison era when they first experimented with using the electric chair as opposed to hanging or firing squad . there's all of this sort of methodology is what we're arguing about, how to do it. we still aren't arguing about whether or not to do it.

>> right. sister health pre -- helen pre prejean has worked on this issue, the issue that's based in the common good. it is never within the common good to kill another under any circumstance. yes, being in jail, being in prison, that's an appropriate response. but killing in the name of the common good? that is totally out of kilter.

>> we do now have the jay carney statement he made during the white house briefing about the failed execution or about the botched execution. let's listen to that now.

>> in this case, these cases, the crimes are indisputably horrific and heinous. but it's also the case that we have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely. i think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.

>> so i mean, sister seimone, this is on the scale of wrongs, trying to do this horrible thing that we do, this thing that is legal in the united states , to do it more humanely, is there room on the social justice side of the argument to focus on that? on that piece, on doing this thing that you find to be wrong but doing it humanely?

>> well, i think at a minimum, that if states are going to pursue it, it needs to be done in a way that does not shock our conscience like last night's event does. the other factor that needs to be looked at is the economic analysis that who is subject to the death penalty . on capitol hill today, there was a lot of conversation about poverty and about the cycle of poverty. one of the great factors is those who get sentenced to death are often those, i think, always almost those from low-income communities, so that poverty, race and other factors need to be looked at as we examine this horrific event that happened last night.

>> of course not in this particular case but you also do have the fact that a study recently found that of more than 7,000 death sentences , 1.6% of those people on death row had been exonerated. you also do have this other issue of not being able to be 100% certain and given more resources, apparently, 4% of more than 200 people who have been exonerated, 200 people who would have been wrongly put to death had they not had their cases re-examined. there's that risk, too.

>> absolutely. we as a society should err on the side of affirming life. the other point is someone who lives in prison with the knowledge of what they did, i think that in some ways is a much more painful -- not in the physical sense of reality but having to assimilate what you've done, there's a greater chance for conversion for change and for being a better person as a result of it. it's a better way forward in society.

>> not to mention our being in a fraternity of nations that do this with syria and north korea . sister seimone, thank you for being here.

>> thank you. honored to do it.