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Committee Recommends Oklahoma Continue Moratorium On Capital Punishment

Claire Donnelly / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
Members of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, including former Oklahoma governor Brad Henry, gave a press conference Tuesday.

A bipartisan group of Oklahomans is urging the state to keep its temporary ban on the death penalty.

The independent group, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, spent more than a year reviewing the state’s death penalty process, from the initial arrest and questioning of a suspect through the execution.

“Many of the findings of the Commission’s year-long investigation were disturbing and led Commission members to question whether the death penalty can be administered in a way that ensures no innocent person is put to death,” the group wrote in a report released Tuesday.

It recommended the state’s temporary ban on the death penalty be extended “until significant reforms are accomplished.”

“It’s not being done right,” said Brad Henry, former Oklahoma governor and Commission co-chair. “If you’re going to have the death penalty, you have to do it right.”

The 300-page report outlines 46 recommendations for improving the Oklahoma capital punishment system, including a recommendation that the state use “the most humane and effective method of execution possible.”

The report argues the best method is the one-drug, or barbiturate, lethal injection--not the three-drug cocktail often used for lethal injections.

Andy Lester, also a Commission co-chair, said the state needs to put more resources toward reforming the death penalty process.

“We need to make sure that if we’re executing people, we execute only those who are found guilty after a truly fair and impartial process,” Lester said.

Commissioner Robert Alexander, Jr. agreed, adding “I don’t have any problem in assuming that someone has been wrongfully executed [in Oklahoma].”

Commissioners said they plan to meet with leaders in the state’s three branches of government about the report’s recommendations.

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