Executions

A Texas death row inmate was executed Wednesday by lethal injection for the 2003 fatal stabbing of two women, an elderly mother and her daughter, who had angered him when they were unable to provide him with enough work at their home for him to sustain himself.

Billy Jack Crutsinger, 64, died at the state penitentiary in Huntsville 13 minutes after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital.

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

Twenty-one years ago, in the east Texas town of Jasper, 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. was walking home late on a Saturday night when three white men in a pickup truck pulled up beside him. The African American man was well-known and well-liked in the town of Jasper. And when the driver, Shawn Berry, offered to give Byrd a ride, Byrd hopped in — after all, he'd known the driver most of his life.

What happened next shocked the conscience of the town, the nation and the entire world.

Finding that a Texas court hadn't followed its instructions, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that a Texas man who killed a store clerk during a botched robbery attempt "is a person with intellectual disability" and therefore cannot be put to death.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Twenty-nineteen means a new governor for Oklahoma and a fresh class of state legislators — nearly 40 percent of whom have zero political experience. It’s a new year, but the state government’s slate hasn’t been wiped clean.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest policy issues on deck for the upcoming year and legislative session.

Energy & Environment

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was a frequent topic for lawmakers during this year’s legislative session. The department was given an additional $8.75 million to balance its books for fiscal year 2018 and more than $517 million for fiscal year 2019 that began July 1. 

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma wants to go where no state has gone before: Executing death row inmates with nitrogen gas. Officials say nitrogen will bring quick, painless deaths, but the research is slim — and it has never been used in U.S. executions.

The case for nitrogen hypoxia sounds simple. Nitrogen is already in the air we breathe, but, as long as humans get the right mix, nitrogen is safe. The state wants to make death row inmates breathe pure nitrogen.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about a two week deadline for lawmakers to come up with funding for pay raises for teachers and state workers or face a walkout by both groups and an announcement by the state Attorney General and Director of the Department of Corrections that Oklahoma will soon be using nitrogen gas to execute people on death row.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma wants to start executing prisoners again and officials want to use nitrogen gas. Oklahoma would be the first state to use nitrogen for an execution.

The state ordered a moratorium on executions in October 2015 after major problems with three lethal injections.

Updated 10 a.m. ET Tuesday

Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by Arkansas to lift a stay that would have allowed officials to conduct the state's first execution in nearly a dozen years.

But while Monday's two scheduled executions were blocked, a path has been cleared for the state to carry out other killings scheduled this month; the next two are set for Thursday night.

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