Listen to this article here
Oklahoma state lawmakers will consider whether to place a moratorium on executions during an interim study hearing on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. inside the state Capitol.
The House Judiciary (Criminal) Committee, in room 4S.5, will take testimony from a death penalty exoneree, defense lawyers and advocates who oppose the death penalty.
Staunchly conservative state Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, leads the hearing. McDugle supported former death row detainee Julius Jones and current death row detainee Richard Glossip. He’s found himself on the same side as anti-death penalty activists.
Back in February, Rep. McDugle joined a coalition of lawmakers, faith leaders and pro-life advocates calling for a moratorium on executions.
They revealed a poll that showed 77% of Oklahoma voters support pausing the state’s death machine.
“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 St. Times.
Interim Study: moratorium on executions?
Meanwhile, a former chair of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board who’s become a fierce advocate for ending the death penalty will testify at the Oct. 5 hearing.
Adam Luck is no longer staying silent about his experiences. He watched colleagues ignore evidence of innocence in a process that almost certainly guarantees the death of those convicted.
He’s since joined Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty as a senior advisor.
“The time has come for Oklahoma legislators to reckon with the injustices inherent in our state’s death penalty,” Adam Luck said. “My front row seat to the system informs my decision to officially join Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned and to call for a moratorium on executions.”
Former Governor Mary Fallin placed a moratorium on executions in 2015. It came after the wrong drugs were used in a second botched execution. The 2014 botched execution resulted in Clayton Lockett writhing in agony for nearly 45 minutes. he ultimately died of a heart attack.
In 2017, a report from the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission found the state is more likely to execute when the victim is White.
Oklahoma top ten in dealing out death
Meanwhile, Gov. Kevin Stitt has overseen a surge in executions since lifting the moratorium in 2021. An analysis from the Frontier shows that Oklahoma has executed 10 people in less than two years, tying Texas.
In other words, despite Oklahomans only representing 1.2% of the U.S. population, Oklahoma executions since 2021 made up nearly a quarter of all executions in the country.
Ahead of the interim study, the human toll has been profound. Julius Jones brought national attention to Oklahoma’s state-sanctioned killing spree. International protests led to Gov. Stitt stopping his execution just hours before it was scheduled.
“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 after the governor’s announcement that Jones’ death sentence would be commuted to life without the possibility of parole.
When asked if he would look into Jones’ case, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said it wasn’t a priority.
“I don’t have any plans to look into his case right now since it was commuted,” AG Drummond told The Black Wall Street Times, adding that he would reconsider if “it becomes relevant again.”
Wrongful conviction for former death row detainee
Notably, the recent de facto exoneration of Glynn Simmons adds weight to the calls for a moratorium on executions. Simmons spent 48 years behind prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the longest of any exoneree in the country. He was once scheduled for execution, but was since sentenced to life in prison.
Now, he’s a free man who wants to change the system for others like him.
“I gave them notice 25 years ago” that he had evidence pointing to his innocence, Glynn Simmons said. “I’m fighting cancer plus I’m fighting my case.”
It’s unclear whether the interim study on halting executions will lead to majority support in the legislature. Yet Demetrius Minor, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, believes a pro-life state like Oklahoma should be concerned about potentially killing innocent people.
“Executing even one innocent person is one too many, especially in a state that professes to value life” said Demetrius Minor. “The cases of Glynn Simmons and Richard Glossip, among many others, should give Oklahomans pause and cause lawmakers to slam on the brakes.”
A livestream of the Oct. 5 hearing will be available at the link below: