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Death sentences continue in Oklahoma despite execution moratorium

OKLAHOMA CITY - Andy Lester co-chairs the Death Penalty Review Commission, a bipartisan group looking into Oklahoma’s execution protocol.

“Our overall recommendation was that the state keep the current moratorium on executions in place,” Lester said.

The commission was formed when the attorney general decided to temporarily stop executions two years ago following the April 2014 botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett and the controversial execution of Charles Warner in January 2015.

“If we're going to have a death penalty, we need to do it the right way,” Lester said.

However, that hasn't stopped the state from asking for the death penalty in murder cases. Most recently, the Cleveland County district attorney asked for the death penalty against Alton Nolen for the murder of Colleen Hufford.

“A trial and sentencing can certainly take place; it's whether that is ultimately carried out,” Lester said.

Oklahoma has nearly 50 inmates on death row; 16 have exhausted their appeals and are scheduled for execution. But, when the death penalties will be carried out remains unclear.

Back in April, the commission made 45 recommendations to the Department of Corrections and the attorney general. They said the moratorium should be extended until significant reforms could be put into place. That includes the drug protocol.

But, Lester said abolishing the death penalty was not one of their recommendations.

“The report did not recommend a moratorium on jury trials for death penalties,” he said.

So, at this point, there is no timeline for when the execution moratorium could be lifted.

Attorney General Mike Hunter sent us a short statement Monday, saying “We are in consultation with the Department of Corrections to perfect and finalize Oklahoma’s execution protocol.”