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By Rev. Harry D. Gatewood, M.Div
I am deeply saddened that the disturbing death penalty has yet to be addressed in the states House of Representatives.
In regards to the January 20th article written by Deon Osborne, “Oklahoma Voters Could Soon Decide Whether to End Death Penalty,” HJR1050 was composed by Representative Mauree Turner (D-OKC). They seek to reimagine and rebuild criminal justice reform.
Turner said, “What I am hearing from my district, and people around the state, is an urgent need to end state-enacted murder in the name of a criminal legal system that seeks to kill people…,” in a recent news release.
HJR1050 is a much-needed bipartisan piece of legislation that will give the state and the people of Greenwood (Tulsa, OK) the power to end the death penalty as a sentencing option.
God doesn’t approve
Capital punishment has hurt many communities, primarily the Black community, due to racial bias before arrest, during trial, and in sentencing.
In his article, Osborne stated that Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and a poll of police chiefs found that the death penalty is least effective at preventing crime.
The Oklahoma death penalty is irresponsible and an intolerable denial of civil liberties. It’s inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system.
Oklahoma, prosecutors are more likely to call for the death penalty in a crime where the victim is White and less likely to call for it in when the victim is an ethnic minority, according to a 2017 report from the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma is the home of Governor Kevin Stitt, who is “proud to be called the most pro-life governor.”
As one who studied Theology at Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center, (ITC) in Atlanta, I don’t believe God approves of the death penalty for any crime.
Capital Punishment is against the universal moral law of do good and avoid evil.
Death penalty is not pro-life
Despite not hearing HJR1050, Oklahoma is seeking to institute the Holy Bible as its official state book, according to HB3890.
Oklahoma is the leading death penalty state per capita in the U.S. and has executed four people in less than a year, according to the Death Penalty Info Center.
Stitt not only affirms anti-abortion but showed to be a pro-life governor by granting clemency to Julius Jones in 2021. Jones was spared from the death penalty. Yet, he was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In 2021 Oklahoma had a six-year moratorium lifted due to significant questioning of the constitutionality of the state’s execution protocol.
In the execution of Clayton Derrell Locket (2014), whose execution took 43 minutes, the state utilized the wrong needle to administer the lethal injection, causing the drug to pool in his muscle tissue.
Media witnesses were escorted out of the death chamber and Lockett regained consciousness on the gurney.
An autopsy found that Lockett died of a heart attack. “What happened in Oklahoma is deeply troubling,” said President Barack Obama at a news conference a few weeks later.
We can’t breathe
Oklahoma uses a three-drug mixture to initiate its executions – midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
Medical examiner reports from the state affirmed that this injection causes a pulmonary edema.
Both John Grant and Bigler Stouffer exhibited this outcome, having heavy liquid-filled lungs that may have caused the inmates to feel as if they were drowning as they were executed.
Midazolam causes those that are executed to convulse, gasp, cough and wheeze. Oklahoma should abolish the death penalty as America is already finding it hard to breathe.
Rev. Harry Gatewood is the founder of Crown Counseling Corporation & Justice Diversion Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rev. Gatewood is an advocate for social justice, human rights and mental wellness.