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Executions Resume, But Longer Trend Still Points Down

If 2022 was, in the words of the Death Penalty Information Center, "the year of botched executions," then 2023 marks a return to capital-punishment routine in many states. No state better symbolizes that journey than Alabama, where a moratorium caused by a string of gruesome failures ended early Friday with the execution of a man whose two previous dates with death were paused when technicians could not insert IVs in his veins. The inmate, Alan Miller, was put to death for the 2001 beating death of a 75-year-old woman, the Associated Press reports. The Alabama Department of Corrections gave itself a passing grade after conducting a review of its own death penalty protocols and adopted some new protocols, which it shrouded in secrecy and which critics say will increase the likelihood that prisoners will endure torturous executions, Bolts reports. “What we’re concerned about is Alabama’s capacity to carry out these executions in a humane and constitutional manner,” said Angie Setzer, a senior attorney for the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of death row prisoners. “Given what we’ve seen, I think there’s real reason for the public to not have that confidence [and] to be concerned about what the state is doing.”

Even with Oklahoma also executing a man on Thursday, this week's executions serve more as blips than turning points in a longer-term downward trend in capital punishment nationwide. USA Today cites an Eastern Kentucky University analysis that of the 27 states that currently authorize capital punishment, 15 have not executed anyone in the last five years and 13 states, in addition to the U.S. military, have not carried out an execution in the last decade, the Eastern Kentucky University analysis said. There are several reasons for the decline, including states pausing executions during the COVID-19 pandemic, a decrease in death penalty practices and the availability of lethal injection drugs, according to former Death Penalty Information Center Deputy Director Ngozi Ndulue. "But, we've seen that even in places that have access to drugs, we're just still seeing less, and that is kind of overall because the death penalty is being used less. We've had less than 50 sentences for the last 8 years and less than 30 executions," Ndulue previously told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Protocol errors halted executions in a number of states in 2022, including Alabama, Tennessee, Idaho and South Carolina.


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