A group of Oklahoma state lawmakers and pro-life advocates gathered to call for a moratorium on the death penalty.
The Oklahoma Chapter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty joined state lawmakers at the Capitol on February 22 demanding change and expressing concern over current policies. A January poll, commissioned by the conservative group and conducted by local polling firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates, was also released. The poll showed 77% of Oklahoma voters supported pausing executions.
“Today, we are joining the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission in calling for a moratorium on executions,” Demetrius Minor, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said.
Last year, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission issued a report to legislators asking for changes to be made regarding Oklahoma executions. “For a period spanning over a year, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, a group of eleven Oklahomans of diverse backgrounds, worked hard to study virtually all aspects of the death penalty, from initial arrest and interrogation through the execution stage, as implemented in the United States and, in particular, in Oklahoma.” To date, much of the list remains unchanged.
“I do not want to abolish the death penalty in Oklahoma. That’s not the purpose. I simply want the AG’s office, our DAs, our legislator[s] to implement [a] policy that keeps an innocent man from being put to death,” Kevin McDugle, the State Representative for House District 12, said during the press conference.
“Oklahoma has had over 120 executions since 1976. Out of those, we’ve had ten that were exonerated because of DNA,” he added.
Adam Luck, former chairman of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, shared his personal experience along with that of the Department of Corrections staff, highlighting the negative impact of executions on their mental health and morale. Luck said his experience with and proximity to clemency hearings “not only removed any confidence I may have had. It raised serious and persistent questions about the death penalty.”
“Based on our moral and spiritual convictions,” John-Mark Hart, pastor of Christ Community Church, said a broad swath of Christians “are calling for this moratorium.” He pointed to “Christ and Capital Punishment: A Statement by Christians in Oklahoma,” which has garnered hundreds of signatures across denominational lines.
“When it comes to matters of life and death, Oklahomans overwhelmingly prefer the state to err on the side of caution, Brett Farley, coordinator of Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a press release.
To read the full report, click here. To view the recorded livestream of the press conference, click here.