The fact that Oklahoma’s temporary moratorium on the death penalty will hold up at least through the end of the year is good news for those of us here who want to abolish capital punishment.
— Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) August 2, 2016
What this means, of course, is that if Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins the election she perhaps can have time to appoint a new U.S. Supreme Court Justice who can act as the swing vote in finally ending the barbaric practice throughout the country and before another botched execution in Oklahoma.
That’s the good news, and yet another reason why Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump must be defeated. The only way he can be defeated is if Clinton is elected. The stakes on this and other issues are high, and they will impact Oklahoma. The overall popular vote does matter in terms of mandates even if it’s unlikely Clinton will win Oklahoma.
The bad news is the Oklahoma voters will get to vote on State Question 776, which would make the state’s judicial and corrections system—at least on paper—double down on its use and potential use of the death penalty.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) August 3, 2016
Here’s the text that will be added to the Oklahoma Constitution as an amendment, according to Ballotpedia, if the question is approved in the Nov. 8 election:
All statutes of this state requiring, authorizing, imposing or relating to the death penalty are in full force and effect, subject to legislative amendment or repeal by statute, initiative or referendum. Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution. Methods of execution may be designated by the Legislature. A sentence of death shall not be reduced on the basis that a method of execution is invalid. In any case in which an execution method is declared invalid, the death sentence shall remain in force until the sentence can be lawfully executed by any valid method. The death penalty provided for under such statutes shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments, nor shall such punishment be deemed to contravene any other provision of this Constitution.
Note, “Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution.” This type of free-for-all thinking when it comes to something as barbaric as the death penalty is fairly typical of the conservatives who currently dominate our state government. It says, As long as we can get away with killing a human being in any way that we can, then so be it because we want revenge and retribution. Note, as well, “The death penalty shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments . . .,” as if that alone will do or means anything at all. Putting someone to death isn’t cruel?
Here’s an understatement: All this makes the state seem like an awful, violent place with politicians who want to exact revenge as they cut funding to education, health programs and social services. Meanwhile, the use of the death penalty is in overall decline throughout the country, and some predict SCOTUS will eventually end it. I’m one of those people.
What has happened is that some states and the federal government have created a mentally-ill system to, for the most part, kill mentally-ill people.
Death row inmates go through years of appeals to make sure their convictions are just, and then lethal injection is used to kill inmates in some states supposedly because it’s less painful than other forms of killing. Oklahoma is among states which have had problems procuring the drugs necessary for lethal injection because companies that produce the drugs don’t want to be associated with it. Oklahoma has had problems with its last three scheduled executions, called “botched” by media outlets, which were investigated by a grand jury.
We have this hyper-sensitive approach to government-sanctioned killing because most of the civilized, democratic world outside of our country realizes that the death penalty is wrong, yet some people in this country are still scrambling for a system that tries to apply logic to the illogical. Why spend time on it? Life without parole, along with a convicted person’s right to appeal with new evidence would be an marked improvement over the application of the death penalty, which cannot be reversed once it’s implemented.
The death penalty costs taxpayers huge sums of money in appeals costs, it doesn’t deter crime, and it’s inherently racist in its application.
SQ 776 was put on the ballot by overwhelming majorities in the legislature, which means legislators think this is what most people want here, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it passes. If it does pass, it will only pose more legal obstacles for the judicial system. The constitutional amendment, itself, is bound to face legal scrutiny if it passes. That might well mean the continuation of the moratorium until it’s resolved. It seems like a last-gasp strategy for death-penalty proponents.
Meanwhile, a new poll suggests that the support for the death penalty among Oklahomans might not be as strong as some people think.
— SoonerPoll (@SoonerPoll) August 6, 2016