Oklahoma City, Okla.—Two declared candidates for the coming race for the Oklahoma Governor’s office called on Governor Stitt to not allow the resumption of executions in Oklahoma at a press conference at 10 a.m., CST on Thursday, October 28, 2021.
Former Oklahoma state Senator and Democratic candidate for Governor Connie Johnson, along with Libertarian candidate for Governor Natalie Bruno, voiced their opposition as the state awaits a final decision from the United States Supreme Court on whether the execution of John Grant may proceed as scheduled later on Thursday.
Joy Hofmeister, another declared candidate for the Democratic nomination, is also invited to participate. If the execution of John Grant is allowed to go forward, it will be the first execution in the state since executions were halted in 2015 in the wake of several botched lethal injections.
Connie Johnson: It’s a “broken system”
Sen. Johnson, who describes herself as a life-long abolitionists, was an influential organizer in the effort to oppose the death penalty in Oklahoma. She described how it is an ineffective and costly, inhumane practice. Most importantly, she described the process currently taking place as “traumatizing.”
“It is costing us three times as much to kill these people as it is to keep them in prison for life,” Johnson said. “But this lately, back and forth teeter tottering…in the courts the last few days, literally has been traumatizing.”
She said the eyes of the world are on Oklahoma once again for all the wrong reasons.
“All of this, to me, is drawing our attention away from the basic question today. And that question is whether we should be killing people at all, especially given how broken our criminal justice system is.”
Johnson said she came to a place of forgiveness after the murder of her own brother.
“The power over life and death is given to God only. The only thing that is second to that power is the power of the people. I’m not interested in the state of Oklahoma representing me in killing someone to show that killing is wrong. The power of the people ultimately resides in the vote.” Johnson called on Governor Stitt to end executions.
“I’m personally calling on him to retreat from playing God in this case…and to not only rescind these executions but to join us in calling for an end to executions in the state of Oklahoma by abolishing the death penalty once and for all.”
Natalie Bruno: It’s “unconstitutional”
Libertarian candidate for governor Natalie Bruno added to Johnson’s calls to end the death penalty. She cited data showing Oklahoma is on track to kill innocent people.
“If you look at statistics of people who’ve been wrongfully executed, that means right now, of the 47 inmates that are currently on death row, almost four of them are likely to be innocent,” Bruno said.
“I myself urge Governor Stitt as well to stop executions in our state, if no other reason for the fact they are unconstitutional. Bruno cited the Fifth Amendment, which requires due process for defendants. “We have shown over and over again that our Department of Corrections is incapable of providing due process,” Bruno said.
She also highlighted the Eighth Amendment, which protects the condemned from “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“Because of the fact that I cannot think of a single humane way to take another person’s life. So, if no other reason, we’re a state that very much so values the Constitution, and it is a direct violation of the Constitution.
Death Penalty Action, an organization dedicated to abolishing state-sanctioned murder, was also in attendance to add pressure on the governor.
Activists have jammed phone lines at the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and the Governor’s Office all week, according to Death Penalty Action co-founder and Director Abraham Bonowitz, who says thousands have signed a petition. Starting at 3 p.m., Death Penalty Action will host a virtual vigil attended by concerned individuals from across the United States and beyond. If the Supreme Court overturns the stay of execution, Oklahoma will execute John Grant at 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 28.
Thursday’s press conference will be live-streamed on the Death Penalty Action Facebook Page.