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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that conservative lawmakers want to replace executions with life sentences. While they will reveal a poll that suggests Oklahomans prefer life over executions, the coalition is only calling for a moratorium.
A coalition of faith leaders, pro-life advocates, and state lawmakers will urge Oklahoma to place a moratorium on the death penalty during a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
The Oklahoma Chapter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty will be joining pro-life advocates and state lawmakers at the Capitol to call for a moratorium on executions. They’ll also unveil a poll that shows most Oklahomans support a pause on executions, according to a press release.
The new poll, conducted by local polling firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates, will show that 77% of Oklahoma voters support pausing the state’s death machine and that a majority support replacing the state’s death penalty with life sentences.
Conservatives to call for moratorium on Oklahoma death penalty
Those in attendance will include: Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-12), Rep. Mark Lepak (R-09), Rep. Preston Stinson (R-96), other elected leaders; Demetrius Minor, National Director for Conservatives Concerned; Brett Farley, State Coordinator for Conservatives Concerned; Rev. Nathan Carr; Pastor John-Mark Hart; and Adam Luck, former Chairman of the Pardon & Parole Board.
The press conference comes after the newly elected Attorney General, Republican Gentner Drummond, used his authority to space out the monthly executions that were previously scheduled by his unelected, under-qualified predecessor.
“When it comes to matters of life and death, Oklahomans overwhelmingly prefer the state to err on the side of caution, said Brett Farley, coordinator of Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
“Oklahomans are increasingly worried about the risk of executing an innocent person and the costs associated with a government program run amok. This poll shows that when Oklahomans are given a choice between some form of a life sentence and the death penalty, the majority choose life.”
Citing a 2017 report from the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, the coalition is hoping to convince state leaders that the flaws in the state’s use of the death penalty are too profound to allow it to continue.
Death penalty traumatizes Oklahomans
The long-ignored report found that Oklahoma’s death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased, and capable of ensnaring innocent people.
Notably, the Oklahoma death penalty’s status quote was tested after Julius Jones, a former death row detainee who maintained his innocent for over 20 years, was granted a commuted sentence to life in prison after Gov. Kevin Stitt caved to intense local and international pressure.
“We should not have received this news four hours before an execution. This was torture for Julius and for his family and for the people who love him,” Rev. Cece Jones-Davis told The Black Wall Street Times outside the McAlester State Penitentiary in Nov. 2021. “And if you watch social media at all, you would’ve seen how much anxiety people had around the world about what was happening with Julius.”
Since then, Gov. Stitt and then-attorney general John O’Connor moved forward with other executions, some of them botched, of mentally disabled and elderly prisoners, giving Oklahoma the notorious title of top ten in state-sanctioned killings.
Republican leads effort to put a pause on executions
For his part, Rep. Kevin McDugle is hoping to convince his conservative colleagues in the Republican-controlled legislature to place a moratorium on the death penalty.
“My belief is this: I don’t care who it is, we cannot put somebody to death if there is doubt,” McDugle previously told The Black Wall Street Times.
After Gov. Stitt repeatedly ignored commutation and clemency recommendations from his own Pardon and Parole Board, the conservative coalition is hoping state leaders will listen to data and reason.
“That commission, which was co-chaired by former Governor Brad Henry, retired Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Reta Strubhar, and former U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Lester, conducted a top to bottom review of Oklahoma’s death penalty and identified many issues that needed to be addressed before executions continued,” Demetrius Minor, national manager of Conservatives Concerned, said in a press release.
“Most of these problems still exist.”