Thursday, January 20, 2022

State Rep files bill for statewide vote on abolishing the death penalty

Turner Files Bill to Give Power to People on Death Penalty

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Mauree Turner, D-OKC, has filed legislation for the 2022 Legislative Session that would create a state question on whether the death penalty should exist in Oklahoma.

While Oklahomans have previously supported the death penalty in ballot initiatives, the inhumane conditions of death row, botched executions, and exposure of the racism and error rate in guilty verdicts have given many reasons to grapple with what it means for a small number of state actors to have the power to decide who lives and who dies an often torturous death, especially in the face of exclusionary evidence. 

“What I am hearing from my district, and people around the state, is an urgent need to end state-enacted murder in the name of a criminal legal system that seeks to kill people with impunity,” Turner said. “We have seen a growing movement, in the last year especially, of people calling for Oklahoma to abolish the death penalty. And I want to give people a chance to express that on the ballot.”

A national poll of police chiefs by the Death Penalty Information Center showed that the nation’s police chiefs rank the death penalty last for effective crime reduction. 

“The officers do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder, and they rate it as one of most inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars in fighting crime,” the Death Penalty Information Center report read. “Criminologists concur that the death penalty does not effectively reduce the number of murders.”

FBI statistics, which show states with the death penalty have a higher murder rate than those without capital punishment, support these expert opinions. Oklahoma’s murder rate is the 11th highest in the nation, according to the most recent CDC data. 

Turner opposes capital punishment and knows that Oklahomans have a broad range of views and experiences, which is why [she]* want[s] to give the people another opportunity to use their voice. 

“Nearly 200,000 more Oklahomans voted in the last election than in 2016,” Turner said. “I believe in democracy. Since 2016, the last time the death penalty was on a statewide ballot, we have seen Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents question Oklahoma’s use of the death penalty. With more information, views around this issue are changing, and we should give people a chance to express those new beliefs.”

Turner has already seen support from both community members and legal professionals. 

“The ACLU of Oklahoma applauds Rep. Turner’s proposed legislation and [her]* efforts to give the people of Oklahoma, not politicians, the opportunity to decide how they seek justice,” said Cindy Nguyen, Policy Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Even with the upcoming federal court case in February challenging our State’s three drug protocol, Oklahoma has three additional alternative methods that could continue the cruel, inhumane, and reckless execution spree the world has witnessed over the last several months. The State has done absolutely nothing to inspire confidence that they are able to exercise the ultimate power of any government without the catastrophic failures of the recent past. It is time Oklahoma end the death penalty once and for all.”

* Rep. Turner is confused about her gender, and uses false pronouns, so I edited the press release to read correctly.


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