OK Lawmaker Proposes Year-Long Moratorium on Capital Punishment

Affiliate: ACLU of Oklahoma
January 17, 2001 12:00 am

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK–Renewed enthusiasm over finding an alternative to capital punishment has prompted an Oklahoma lawmaker to introduce a bill seeking a year-long ban on capital punishment, according to the state’s Government Information Tracking Service.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, calls for the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission to review all homicide cases and also many elements relating to the death penalty, including “the costs of lifetime incarceration as opposed to the costs of imposing the death penalty, the cost of death penalty-related appeals, the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime, and how many defendants have been sentenced to death who were subsequently exonerated of the crime during the last 20 years.”

The report that results from the reviews is to then be presented to the Office of the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Presiding Judge of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals before the moratorium deadline. Full cooperation is required by all Oklahoma State employees to help the committee access information.

“What supporters of the death penalty need to realize is that we are not asking to eliminate the law, just suspend it for the next year so that we can re-evaluate its effectiveness,” Rep. Toure said. “I believe that we have serious flaws in our system which require a serious examination. I believe that most Oklahomans would not want an innocent person executed. That’s the reason why I think there needs to be a moratorium and a thorough examination of our processes in death cases.”

Oklahoma is one of 38 states that supports capital punishment. A similar moratorium was issued last year by executive order in Illinois, and Nebraska’s legislature passed a moratorium bill that was subsequently vetoed by the governor. In recent years, related bans have been introduced in several states, including New Jersey, Maryland and Alabama.

“I think that once we take a hard look at [capital punishment], I think we’ll find some things,” Toure said. “And I’m hopeful that they will be considered serious enough by members of both chambers that we want to correct them.”

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