A botched lethal injection in Oklahoma Tuesday left a condemned man convulsing for nearly 45 minutes before he died, suggesting officials need to do far more than tinker with the machinery of death. The horrific scene was the latest evidence that the nation's clinical approach to execution can prove as gruesome as a hanging, and stand as an affront to the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
But the troubling means of execution is only a corollary to the greater threat that - due to fatal flaws and inequities in the death penalty's application - the wrong person might be strapped to the gurney. That's been proven by the numerous exonerations of death-row inmates with DNA evidence, and by the fact that minority and poor defendants are much more likely to receive a death sentence.
With states bordering Pennsylvania on three sides having done away with the death penalty, and with the news that Gov. Corbett signed another death warrant this week, Harrisburg should heed the Oklahoma debacle and conclude that capital punishment is a system beyond repair.