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Obama: Oklahoma execution ‘is deeply troubling’


President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk back to the Oval Office after a news conference Friday. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama weighed in on the botched Oklahoma execution on Friday, saying the incident highlighted some of the problems with how the death penalty was being utilized in the country.

“What happened in Oklahoma is deeply troubling,” Obama said during a news conference at the White House.

Clayton Lockett, who was convicted of murder and numerous other charges after he and his accomplices attacked and sexually assaulted two teenage women, was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection on Tuesday night. But the execution was called off after the vein used to insert the drugs collapsed. Witnesses said Lockett appeared to be in pain during the botched execution, and died of a heart attack shortly after.

Obama said Friday that he believes there are certain crimes that would warrant the death penalty, including mass killings or the killing of children. But he also said there are “significant problems” with the death penalty, including individuals sent to death row who are later found to be innocent.

“This situation in Oklahoma I think just highlights some of the significant problems there,” he said.

He said he would talk with Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials to see what steps have been taken to deal with these problems.

Obama’s comments, his first on the botched execution, came in response to a question during a news conference with German Cancellor Angela Merkel in the Rose Garden.

Earlier in the week, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said the execution had not been carried out humanely. The botched execution has also drawn significant criticism from death penalty opponents as well as from the human rights office of the United Nations, which opposes capital punishment.

Scott Wilson contributed to this report. 

Related:

Everything you need to know about executions in the United States.

What it was like watching the botched Oklahoma execution.

Head of Oklahoma corrections says all executions there should be put on hold indefinitely.

Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.
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