President Barack Obama Friday tried to raise his supporters’ long-standing opposition to jury-directed death penalties by suggesting to a French reporter that Americans jurors and judges may be biased against African-Americans.
“What happened in Oklahoma was deeply troubling,” said Obama, referring to a recent execution of an African-American man in Oklahoma.
A Pew report in March showed that only 36 percent of African-Americans and 40 percent Latinos support the death penalty. In contrast, roughly 63 percent of whites support the death penalty.
In Oklahoma, the condemned man did not die quickly because his vein collapsed, hindering passage of the first of three execution drugs. Fifteen years ago, the man had kidnapped four people. He eventually executed one of them — an 18-year-old teenager — after she watched her grave being dug for 20 minutes. The murderer was condemned after testimony from multiple witnesses.
Instead of sidestepping a foreign reporter’s question about a state-level issue in Oklahoma, Obama chose to expand the Oklahoma case into a veiled attack on the death penalty.
“We have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, situations in which there were individuals on death row who were later on were discovered to have been innocent … and all these I think do raise significant questions about how the death penalty has been applied,” he claimed in the Rose Garden press conference.