More Than Half Of The Executions Set Through 2024 Will Happen In Just One State

One of the most controversial topics around today is capital punishment: the government killing someone convicted of a crime. The court and prison systems are harshly discriminatory and flat out unfair to convicted people. As Michigan State University's College of Law explains, Black people are far more likely to serve longer prison sentences than white people and are also more likely to be wrongly convicted of a crime. In the Black Lives Matter era where unarmed Black people are killed by police officers, these injustices matter now more than ever. 

One state will carry out most of the country's executions through 2024: Oklahoma (via Death Penalty Information Center). As CNN reports, Oklahoma started its scheduled execution of 25 convicted people with James Coddington on August 25. Coddington was convicted in 1997 for the murder of Albert Hale. Despite his plea for clemency, Coddington was executed via lethal injection by the state on Thursday. His execution has raised important questions, however, about Oklahoma's history with the death penalty, its botched executions, and why so many death sentences seem to happen in the state to begin with. 

Oklahoma's harrowing history with capital punishment

When it comes to the death penalty, there are some very unsettling facts about the State of Oklahoma. As CNN says, Oklahoma was the first state to use lethal injection as the primary form of execution, along with being the first jurisdiction in the world to do so, beginning in 1977. Oklahoma was also the first to adopt nitrogen hypoxia and midazolam as secondary methods of execution. As The Atlantic explains, nitrogen hypoxia is what some consider to be one of the more humane forms of execution. It involves a nitrogen gas mixture that deprives oxygen, creating a reportedly painless death. 

With that being said, the dark side of Oklahoma's judicial systems are not often talked about. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, gender and race are significant influencing factors when death sentences are determined. For example, the race of the convicted person and the gender of the victim are heavily slanted with racial bias. Non-white men are more likely to be sentenced to death for the killing of a white person than vice versa. 

Oklahoma's botched executions raise serious ethical concerns

Oklahoma's tradition of executing convicted people goes back over a century. As the official Oklahoma government website says, Oklahoma State Penitentiary has executed 197 people between the years of 1915 and 2022. The methods for execution vary from hanging, lethal injection, electrocution, and so on. According to Death Penalty Info, Oklahoma has had the second-highest number of executions, with the first being Texas. 

Another harrowing fact about Oklahoma's accelerated schedule of executing convicted people is that things don't always work as planned, and botched executions can happen. CNN reports that during his execution, Clayton Lockett, a person who was on death row, writhed in pain for 43 minutes, until he finally succumbed to a heart attack. Another death row person, John Grant, faced a similar fate; he convulsed and vomited on the gurney during his execution.

Critics of the system point to the injection cocktail itself as a culprit. The drug midazolam, one of the three drugs in Oklahoma's injection cocktail, reportedly does not do a proper job of rendering an individual unconscious. This could result in pain and a prolonged execution. And with Oklahoma doing large batches of executions in a relatively short time — about one a month for the next two years — these concerns are incredibly important to address.