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House committee advances bill to halt all Oklahoma executions

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary
Quinton Chandler
StateImpact Oklahoma
The Oklahoma State Penitentiary, which is home to the state's death row.

A House panel on Wednesday passed a bill that would put a moratorium on executions.

The House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee passed House Bill 3138, by Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, by a vote of 4-0.

It heads to the full House where its fate is uncertain. McDugle said he would put an amendment on the bill to limit the moratorium to two years.

It would create a five-member Death Penalty Reform Task Force to recommend ways of implementing recommendations from the 2017 Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission.

The far-reaching recommendations included recording the entire interrogation of any suspect or potential suspect in a homicide to paying Oklahoma Indigent Defense System attorneys and staff commensurate with their counterparts in prosecutors’ offices.

“We want them in the law” to prevent an innocent person from being executed, McDugle said.

McDugle said none of the recommendations have been implemented.

“We’ve got to take this report seriously,” McDugle said.

McDugle, who supports the death penalty, is a supporter of death row inmate Richard Glossip, who says he is innocent.

Glossip’s execution dates have been put on hold several times for a variety of reasons.

Glossip was twice sentenced to die for killing Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese.

Glossip currently has an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

McDugle said the justice system cannot be trusted because those in charge are not willing to stand up and fix their mistakes.

“Government really works hard to protect itself,” said Rep. Danny Williams, R-Seminole, who voted for the moratorium.

The bill would vacate current execution dates.

Oklahoma currently has 36 offenders on death row, said Kay Thompson, an Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

Two have execution dates, she said.

Oklahoma County killer Michael Dewayne Smith is set to die April 4 for the deaths of Janet Moore and Sharath Pulluru in 2002.

Wade Greely Lay is set to die June 6 for the 2004 shooting death of Kenneth Anderson, a Tulsa bank security guard, during an attempted robbery.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Barbara Hoberock is a senior reporter with Oklahoma Voice. She began her career in journalism in 1989 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. She began with the Claremore Daily Progress and then started working in 1990 for the Tulsa World. She has covered the statehouse since 1994 and served as Tulsa World Capitol Bureau chief. She covers statewide elected officials, the legislature, agencies, state issues, appellate courts and elections.
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