Seven of the 20 execution attempts carried out this year were visibly problematic, says the Death Penalty Information Center. Several executions were agonizingly drawn out as officials tried to secure a vein through which to inject lethal drugs, leading lawyers to describe the process as a form of torture. In all, seven execution attempts could be construed as having been botched. Such a high proportion of problematic executions points to issues with lethal injections, the dominant method of official killings. Executioners in Alabama, Arizona and Texas had difficulty trying to secure prisoners’ veins. In Alabama, the past three executions have had this problem, starting with the July execution of Joe Nathan James, which included a three-hour struggle to set an IV line. The two executions of Alan Miller and Kenneth Smith were called off because the execution team was unable to find a workable vein before the death warrant expired. The next month, Arizona’s inability to set the lethal injection tubes resulted in a “surreal spectacle”, when the prisoner, Frank Atwood, gave advice to the IV team on how to find a suitable vein in his body so that they could kill him, reports The Guardian.
In Arizona, the execution in May of Clarence Dixon ended in a bloody mess because executioners tried for 25 minutes to set the IV and resorted to an unauthorized “cutdown” of slicing into his groin to reach a vein. The center contends that a key factor of the botched procedures was a veil of secrecy used by death penalty states to avoid accountability. Three states, Idaho, Florida and Mississippi, introduced new laws further obscuring how executions are carried out, including hiding the source of their lethal drugs to sidestep court scrutiny. Though 27 states allow the death penalty, only six – Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas – killed prisoners this year. The 18 executions that were completed in 2022, and the 22 new death sentences, are among the fewest of any year since 1991. The center found that out of the people executed this year, eight had a serious mental illness, five were intellectually disabled, 12 had histories of traumatic childhoods, and three were killed for crimes they committed as teenagers.