NBC poll shows support for death penalty undimmed by recent botched execution

posted at 8:01 am on May 15, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The botched execution of a brutal murderer in Oklahoma has done nothing to change American minds about the death penalty, but does have them looking to the past for better solutions. A new NBC poll shows the death penalty enjoying a significant level of public support — more than many other government policies — if still down from its peak twenty years ago:

A badly botched lethal injection in Oklahoma has not chipped away at the American public’s support of the death penalty, although two-thirds of voters would back alternatives to the needle, an exclusive NBC News poll shows. …

A comfortable majority of those questioned — 59% — said they favor the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for murder, while 35% said they are opposed.

That split is in line with surveys done before Lockett’s death in the last two years, and also reflects the erosion of support for capital punishment since the 1990s, when it was more than 70%.

“I don’t think this fundamentally altered views about the death penalty,” said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

NBC didn’t have the full poll data on line, but did include a few morsels in a separate article. There is a definite split along racial lines about the death penalty, with 58% of black respondents opposed and 64% of white respondents in favor. Catholics are twice as likely to oppose the death penalty as evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, but only a quarter of those opposed to the death penalty do so out of religious convictions. Half of Democrats oppose the death penalty, but only 18% of Republicans do. The most curious of them was this:

Having a family member who has been in prison or on probation did not make a respondent more likely to oppose or support the death penalty.

I would have guessed that this would be a demo that would lean hard against the death penalty, as one would suspect that they would have a lot more skepticism about the process that delivers such a penalty. Surprising.

The rest of this isn’t terribly surprising at all. One botched execution will not change minds on the death penalty, although it’s clearly changing minds about lethal injection.  Oddly enough, lethal injection finds its biggest support among those who are opposed to the death penalty; 70% of those say it should be the only option, while only 11% of death-penalty supporters say the same thing.

What, then, should replace it? If one wanted a sure-fire and humane method, the guillotine would be the choice, but its industrial-scope application in the French Revolution would make that a politically untenable choice. Firing squads have a lower rate of screw-ups, but they’re bloody too. The best option, according to a retired Army officer interviewed by NBC, is hanging:

“There is no such thing as killing someone humanely,” he added. “But if hanging is done properly, it’s more humane than lethal injection because there are fewer things that can go wrong.”

The same man made this ironic observation, though:

After the Lockett debacle, he is more convinced than ever that hanging is the best option.

After all, he said, “that’s how they killed Saddam Hussein.”

That hanging, of course, was famously botched and nearly resulted in a beheading.

No method will be perfect, which also describes the process that consigns people to death row in the first place. I’m opposed to the death penalty for that reason and for the way in which people like Lovett become secular martyrs in the aftermath of years of controversy over their culpability. But if we are going to have executions, then we’d better be prepared to see a few of them botched no matter the method used.


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There is no such thing as killing someone humanely.

If you want to die humanely, don’t murder anyone.

CurtZHP on May 15, 2014 at 8:06 AM

Carbon monoxide sends you to sleep and then kills you. Seems to hit both the humane and effective columns.

Give every death row prisoner a sealed room, a juicy T-bone steak and a hibachi full of charcoal briquettes; turn off the ventilation and come back in the morning.

Dolce Far Niente on May 15, 2014 at 8:09 AM

+1 curt

cmsinaz on May 15, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Of course, because although “cruel and unusual” punishment is a constitutional principle– most of us see nothing wrong with a little suffering for someone who intentionally caused so much. Kinda of hard to feel sympathy or empathy for a man who buried someone alive after torturing her. If he felt a tenth of the fear she did, then karma works.

melle1228 on May 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM

The guy ended up dead.
Sounds like a perfect result to me.
Who cares about the little details…?

NeoKong on May 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM

“There is no such thing as killing someone humanely.”

Nonsense. In this context, humanely just means that you’re not causing pain; you’re not torturing the villain before he dies. The easiest way to do that is to make them unconscious first, then the method of execution is almost irrelevant. If our bright guys in charge can’t figure out how to cause unconsciousness, like happens countless times daily at hospitals and dentists, then I don’t know what to say.

Fenris on May 15, 2014 at 8:12 AM

I’m not sure of the death penalty – OJ gets off, Joe Schmuck dies, depends on how much lawyering and PR you can afford. But if we’re going to execute people, how about heroin? Cheap, available, and even pleasant (or so I hear).

Surellin on May 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

NBC poll shows support for death penalty undimmed by recent botched execution

It WAS NOT a botched execution. Badly performed perhaps but I can’t muster a whole lot of sympathy for the final minutes of a guy who kidnapped, raped, drugged, shot, and buried alive his victim. And the evil guy still was executed.

Frankly, I don’t think killers should be allowed to peacefully drift off to sleep when they are executed.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 8:18 AM

No problem, let’s go back to public hanging.

JungleCogs on May 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM

If this was China the method of execution would be anesthesia followed by organ harvesting. But that way is full of perverse incentives, see Larry Niven’s Known Space stories.

nemo on May 15, 2014 at 8:22 AM

Plutonium Suppository?

Or bring back underground nuclear testing and give the condemned a front row seat to the blast.

meci on May 15, 2014 at 8:25 AM

I’m opposed to the death penalty for that reason and for the way in which people like Lovett become secular martyrs in the aftermath of years of controversy over their culpability.

That’s a problem with the system not the sentence. There is no reason why it takes years of sitting on death row before these criminals are executed. When there is no doubt of guilt, there should be an expedited process. The trial of Nidal Hassan took way too much time and the Boston Marathon bomber’s trial isn’t even scheduled until November (17 months after the bombing).

More importantly, the death penalty should be on the table for cases like Timothy McVeigh and others who are mass murderers. No matter how squeamish those with pajama-boy sensibilities are uncomfortable with the idea of capital punishment.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 8:26 AM

I want drug dealing made a capital crime. We need to destroy the distribution chains. Want life instead? Give up your supplier?

And in these cases, no appeals.

BuckeyeSam on May 15, 2014 at 8:28 AM

FWIW: This story has not had me pacing the floors at night. Anyone else losing sleep?

BuckeyeSam on May 15, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Catholics are twice as likely to oppose the death penalty as evangelical or fundamentalist Christians

Catholicism: with the exception of abortion, is there anything political that it doesnt get wrong?

Red Widow on May 15, 2014 at 8:33 AM

In case you missed it:
http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2014-05-07.html

One LAST time. You DON’T need an IV. This can all be done with the right medications and intramuscular injections, and anyone can stick a needle in the deltoid or thigh muscle.

NoPain on May 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

I think Elanor Cliff would agree that that Lovett never murdered anyone. He buried her alive and she died of dirt inhalation.

Laurence on May 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

JungleCogs on May 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM

I favor the Guillotine; less problems with ‘big and tall’ perps… just swap out the board.

Hanging is an art form. I doubt there’s enough qualified, and skilled, hangmen out there to fill the bill.

The prohibition against ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment doesn’t, IMO preclude the condemned having an appropriate level of dread, and fear, in their final moments on this earth.

You want deterrence? Reduce the ‘happy fun time’ aspect of being condemned to ZERO.

CPT. Charles on May 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

When my cat was put to sleep (age 14, kidney cancer and then a seizure which brought us to the end), he was already unconscious from the propofol (or cat equivalent). He then got the stuff to kill him. As he lay in my arms, he let out a few big “breaths”. I’m certain he wasn’t awake nor was he suffering.

People die of drug overdoses all the time. Look at the stats. This isn’t difficult stuff.The bureaucracy PURPOSELY makes it difficult and ugly, no doubt politically-motivated.

Get rid of the bureacracy and get a good veterinarian onto death row.

MistyLane on May 15, 2014 at 8:37 AM

it wasn’t botched.

dmacleo on May 15, 2014 at 8:39 AM

Texas should bring back “Old Sparky”…

golfer1 on May 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Why have many on the right adopted the phrase ‘botched execution’ in this case? Was he successfully executed, or not?

NotCoach on May 15, 2014 at 8:43 AM

Fenris on May 15, 2014 at 8:12 AM
No, Ed is right. We decide how the condemn will die. We want them awake and active so they know what they are receiving. That is the worst that we, as a civil society can do them. They have to live with that understanding up to the moment of their death. That is our justice for the victims, and their family’s.

flackcatcher on May 15, 2014 at 8:44 AM

CPT. Charles on May 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Yep, even experienced hangmen and head-choppers could screw it up, the only way to escape the guillotine was if the executioner died before sentence was carried out; the machine itself is foolproof.

Bishop on May 15, 2014 at 8:57 AM

All fancy means of execution are unnecessary. Firing squads work.

David Blue on May 15, 2014 at 9:03 AM

I’m opposed to the death penalty for that reason and for the way in which people like Lovett become secular martyrs in the aftermath of years of controversy over their culpability.

Leaving them alive to live off the taxpayer dime for years and years and years is the better option? Especially when you have the possibility of some idiot judge eventually letting them out?

And of course making them icons isn’t just for those who have been executed… you’ve got people like Mumia Abu-Jamal who are held up as victims. I don’t know if they’d be less a martyr if they were dead but I do know we wouldn’t have to worry about them being set free or writing a book to get sympathy or attack their own victims or whatever else the living can do to do more harm.

Ukiah on May 15, 2014 at 9:17 AM

Enough with the botched BS. If the iv failed and he did not receive the first drug then he did not receive the third drug, meaning, he had a heart attack all on his own. If the guy had been found dead in his cell before the execution due to an MI, would that had also been a “botched” execution? Once in the execution chamber, should they have rushed him to the ER? No, they let nature takes its course. You think any of us will be able to avoid pain at our deaths? Guess again!

Blake on May 15, 2014 at 9:18 AM

That hanging, of course, was famously botched and nearly resulted in a beheading.

So, decapitation is by definition “botched”? Hardly. It is very quick though not pleasant to watch, though victims of Sadamm would disagree.

Blake on May 15, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Question:

Is the condemned murderer dead?

If No, then it was botched.

If yes, then it wasn’t botched. The execution just wasn’t as efficient as we would have preferred.

evilned on May 15, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Technically, there was no execution. He had a heart attack before the drugs were infused. So, no, there was no botched execution because he suffered an M. I., on his own.

Blake on May 15, 2014 at 9:30 AM

That hanging, of course, was famously botched and nearly resulted in a beheading.

Preferable to strangling to death. Almost beheading him also means snapping his neck, which is the proper way to hang someone. As CPT. CHarles noted hanging is an art form, but it is always better to make the rope too long instead of too short. Beheading or nearly beheading is not botching it, just overdoing it.

NotCoach on May 15, 2014 at 9:31 AM

No method will be perfect, which also describes the process that consigns people to death row in the first place. I’m opposed to the death penalty for that reason…

From the Bible… we get the government we deserve; the government is the instrument of God’s justice on earth; our government system is indeed flawed, as are we; but according to God’s Word, the murderer deserves death.

You oppose justice because it may not be perfectly just, and in doing so, you take the side of injustice.

Square that circle, Ed.

dominigan on May 15, 2014 at 9:34 AM

NotCoach on May 15, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Hanging is indeed an artform. From a History channel show I learned that incidents with beheading via hanging were due to the type of rope used and the weight of the hangee.

Firing squad is my suggestion.

dominigan on May 15, 2014 at 9:38 AM

I have a PROVEN, environmentally friendly, low-tech, low-cost way to execute prisoners:

-Tree.
-Horse.
-Rope.

Some assembly required.

conservative hispanic on May 15, 2014 at 9:38 AM

I’m opposed to the death penalty for that reason and for the way in which people like Lovett become secular martyrs in the aftermath of years of controversy over their culpability.

Barack Obama just let 36,000 criminals go free. He is using these criminals as levers to force congress to give amnesty to them. These included murders, rapists and DUIs. The faster they kill these scum off the faster they are off the books for use by government officials as leverage against us peons.

astonerii on May 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM

That hanging, of course, was famously botched and nearly resulted in a beheading.

You keep using that word. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

No method will be perfect, which also describes the process that consigns people to death row in the first place. I’m opposed to the death penalty for that reason….

I really don’t understand how a Catholic can oppose the death penalty, given its position in Scripture as something mandated by God for the government. nor how a thinking man can oppose it when it is so clearly founded in Natural Law. This is a myopia that truly baffles me.

it is always better to make the rope too long instead of too short.

NotCoach on May 15, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Up to a point, of course.

GWB on May 15, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Firing squads work fine. Cyanide seems pretty fast. As others have noted, if you put a prisoner to sleep first, the method is largely irrelevant.

It’s not cruel and unusual to apply anesthesia at the dentist or hospital. So we can do the same to death row inmates and then give them a lethal dose of cyanide or whatever.

hamiltmc on May 15, 2014 at 9:44 AM

No matter the method, no matter the quality of performance of the execution, Lockett put himself there.

Personally, I would like to see fewer executions in the U.S. because of a nationwide higher standard of evidence and an automatic, immediate appeal for review of trial error, for imposition of a death sentence. But I would also like to see the subsequent appeals process greatly restricted.

And then shoot them.

M240H on May 15, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Up to a point, of course.

GWB on May 15, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Of course. :P

NotCoach on May 15, 2014 at 9:51 AM

“There is no such thing as killing someone humanely,”

The left certainly believes there are multiple ways of doing so. They’ve conveniently given those methods its own word – abortion. Be it saline solution, snipping the spine, or sucking out the brains, all these methods have the left’s stamp of approval when applied to the unborn. Apply those same methods to the condemned and the left should be just fine with it.

Standards.

rukiddingme on May 15, 2014 at 9:52 AM

Hanging, firing squad, lethal injection, electric chair, whatever. How about the victim’s family gets to decide? Too much attention is given already to the killer, while the victim is never remembered.

leftamark on May 15, 2014 at 9:58 AM

You people keep saying “botched” but I haven’t heard anyone explain what in fact went wrong.

Well?

p.s., this is why we’re losing, because we’re losing the fight for the use of our language. 1984?

Lance Corvette on May 15, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Let the bar for cruel and unusual punishment be set by the actions that got the criminal convicted. Then allow him to decide how he goes with that as the measure.

DanMan on May 15, 2014 at 10:38 AM

although I like the steak and hibachi idea

DanMan on May 15, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Even veterinarians are having problems getting drugs to euthanize critters these days, thanks to this lethal injection BS. Purple juice could be administered into the intestinal cavity (IP injection) via a simple stab operation – even with a local anesthetic at the site chosen. Not as complicated as finding veins, but just as adequate, if a bit longer to take effect.

dockywocky on May 15, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Firing squad allows citizen participation.

butch on May 15, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Huckabee

wheelgun on May 15, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Why must brutal murderers be given consideration they didn’t give their victims?

And IMO, his execution wasn’t ‘botched’.

In the end, he still didn’t suffer as bad as his victims.

catmman on May 15, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Hanging, firing squad, lethal injection, electric chair, whatever. How about the victim’s family gets to decide? Too much attention is given already to the killer, while the victim is never remembered.

leftamark on May 15, 2014 at 9:58 AM

The family of Lockett’s victim doesn’t want him executed.

My neighbor’s son hired a hitman to kill the entire family for the paltry sum of $1.5M. The father (my neighbor) survived. He is actively working to get his son off death row, having ‘forgiven’ him for having his wife and younger son murdered. (Texas – 2003)

So, no.

WhirledPeas on May 15, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Anything short of slowly feeding it feet first into a wood chipper was too good for this vicious animal.

And I’m not sure even that would be too mean. If it would save just one life …..

Unfortunately, we have to consider the feelings of the squeamish who don’t care about justice, only about how executions make them feel.

fadetogray on May 15, 2014 at 11:08 AM

“There is no such thing as killing someone humanely,” he added. “But if hanging is done properly, it’s more humane than lethal injection because there are fewer things that can go wrong.”

There are 2 ways that you can screw up a hanging. One matters to the inmate, the other to the observers.

Drop the person too short of a distance and their neck doesn’t break and they strangle to death. That’s the one that matters to the inmate as it can take 2-3 minutes for them to even lose consciousness, and another 5 or so before they’re dead.

The other screw up though doesn’t matter at all to the inmate. Drop him too far and you can take the head completely off (as nearly happened to ole Saddam). This doesn’t matter to the inmate as they’re already dead and won’t feel a thing. But it’s a bloody, gory mess for those observing.

sumpnz on May 15, 2014 at 11:12 AM

The family of Lockett’s victim doesn’t want him executed.

Doesn’t = didn’t.

WhirledPeas on May 15, 2014 at 11:12 AM

What’s wrong with the .38 caliber solution to the problem?

Repeat If Necessary.

Tom Servo on May 15, 2014 at 11:12 AM

btw, to Whirled Peas, with respect to your neighbor: Sharia is the system of law wherein the victims are allowed a great deal of latitude, and choice, with respect to the perpetrator’s punishment.

We don’t live under Sharia. yet. The convicted man’s crime was not just against his father; it was against two other innocent victims, and legally speaking, a crime against the Peace and Dignity of the State. That is what is being punished. The murderers father can speak for himself, and forgive the son if he wants, but he can’t speak for the other victims in the case, and he can’t speak for us. So having had his say, it’s time for him to STFU and let other people take it from here.

Tom Servo on May 15, 2014 at 11:17 AM

The other screw up though doesn’t matter at all to the inmate. Drop him too far and you can take the head completely off (as nearly happened to ole Saddam). This doesn’t matter to the inmate as they’re already dead and won’t feel a thing. But it’s a bloody, gory mess for those observing.

sumpnz on May 15, 2014 at 11:12 AM

But really no worse than an average episode of Game of Thrones….

dentarthurdent on May 15, 2014 at 11:31 AM

The murderers father can speak for himself, and forgive the son if he wants, but he can’t speak for the other victims in the case, and he can’t speak for us. So having had his say, it’s time for him to STFU and let other people take it from here.

Tom Servo on May 15, 2014 at 11:17 AM

I don’t give a dam what the murderer’s father thinks or says – and he’s not a victim.

BTW did you word that incorrectly?

dentarthurdent on May 15, 2014 at 11:34 AM

The man was guilty of the crime of murder and has been put to death. He had his day in court. He had his appeals.

SC.Charlie on May 15, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Tom Servo on May 15, 2014 at 11:17 AM

I don’t give a dam what the murderer’s father thinks or says – and he’s not a victim.

BTW did you word that incorrectly?

dentarthurdent on May 15, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Nevermind – just saw whirled peas post about a completely different case – now I get it.

dentarthurdent on May 15, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Hanging and the firing squad, or by any means they killed someone.

The bastid should have been buried alive.

Schadenfreude on May 15, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Hanging and the firing squad, or by any means they killed someone.
The bastid should have been buried alive.

Schadenfreude on May 15, 2014 at 11:39 AM

I like that idea – hang’em and have the firing squad shoot him while he’s swinging on the rope.
Additional advantage of giving the cops/guards some shooting practice – and we all know they need it – from what we see in the news.

But NOTHING would have been too inhumane with this creep.
He deserved the most painful death possible.

dentarthurdent on May 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Botched execution??? I wasn’t botched. The vermin was put to death as order by hi “Death Penalty Decree”. Game, Set, Match and don’t let the door…………………etc.

soghornetgunner on May 15, 2014 at 12:40 PM

I still say firing squad. These things aren’t public, so “bloodiness” isn’t a concern of mine, but even still, I don’t think the police would use a huge caliber – probably .223 – would do all that much external damage. Half a dozen rounds to center mass and its over in a few seconds.

LukeinNE on May 15, 2014 at 12:47 PM

The perp is dead. It’s self evident the execution wasn’t botched.

Quartermaster on May 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

LukeinNE on May 15, 2014 at 12:47 PM

I would make the hanging public.

GWB on May 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

I would make the hanging public.

GWB on May 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

I don’t support public executions because it would build opposition to the death penalty. Killing someone is unpleasant (especially if the hangman doesn’t get the adjustments quite right), and all people would see is someone dying. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a guy’s head popping off is going to be remembered (and covered) a lot more than a text description of whatever monstrous act put the guy there in the first place.

I think it’s better for both the description of the crime and execution to have the same treatment: text description.

LukeinNE on May 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

But really no worse than an average episode of Game of Thrones….

dentarthurdent on May 15, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Given what people regularly see in popular entertainment, I doubt there’d be much problem with nearly any reasonable form of execution. Public or not.

trigon on May 15, 2014 at 1:31 PM

I think it’s better for both the description of the crime and execution to have the same treatment: text description.

LukeinNE on May 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

I agree with the principle, but would take it a step further. Execution to be done without cameras, but both execution and murder to be acted out (with full high quality special effects) and played on split screen while the execution is taking place.

That would be the most fair and educational.

Under that way of doing things, I have no doubt support for the death penalty would soar.

fadetogray on May 15, 2014 at 1:56 PM

My support for the death penalty is conditional: it has to have been a heinous crime that was committed, and the evidence has to be incontrovertible. Once it is absolutely clear that THIS is the murderer ( or perpetrator of one of a short set of crimes), them use the guillotine, the rope (for hanging, not strangling), or the bullets.

Kevin K. on May 15, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Remember that the constitutional phrase is “cruel AND unusual”, i.,e. is has to be both before unconstitutional.

Hanging is hardly unusual as it has be practiced for centuries, including when the Constitution was written. Hang them!

Chessplayer on May 15, 2014 at 4:44 PM

How is an execution where the person dies botched? Seems successful to me. Oh, it took him 45 or so minutes to die and he gurgled along the way. So tragic. Before replying be sure to read what this guy did to his victim and the tell me why the Braveheart model of execution wouldn’t be the appropriate way to go.

nikophil on May 15, 2014 at 5:28 PM

After what this person did to his victim, I’m supposed to feel bad he suffered a horrible death? I think not. Too bad he didn’t suffer longer and more painfully.

RWRFAN on May 15, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Once the criminal has attained dead-man-walking status, I don’t care in the least what happens to him between there and a body-bag.

Now, in answer to those who worry that too many people are on death row, and might not some of them be innocent . . .

There are too few people on death row, and with the automatic and multiple appeals system, it is incredibly unlikely anymore that there are innocents awaiting execution.

And if there are, I recommend that they get settled up with Jesus. The only sin beyond forgiveness is rejecting God’s gift, and Heaven is forever, while this Earthly life is a vapor.

Freelancer on May 15, 2014 at 9:54 PM

I don’t know why the media insists in calling Lockett’s execution “notched.”

It wasn’t botched, just ask him. Oh, wait. He’s dead.

So it wasn’t botched.

schmuck281 on May 16, 2014 at 1:21 AM