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New bill bolsters execution methods in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Legislature will consider a bill this session to beef up the state's ability to carry out the death penalty.

In November, state voters overwhelmingly supported a measure to guarantee the state's power to impose capital punishment.

Currently, lethal injection is the only method in use, even though it has been highly criticized and mired in legal challenges.

Oklahoma State Rep. Harold Wright has filed a bill to clarify execution methods.

There is no mention of the electric chair in the republican's proposal, which many believe removes it from the list of potentials.

"I personally support the death penalty in heinous homicide," Wright said. "In Oklahoma, the majority of the people supported that. This helps to clarify the methodology that might be used in case of the death penalty."

HB 1697 outlines three methods of execution: lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia and firing squad.

The measure also allows for the possibility for any other method of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

"The statutes were a little bit unclear about how to carry out the death penalty. And so, I felt it was necessary, working with the attorney general's office, to get some language that would help clarify the corrections department was in charge of the executions and that if one method was not available, they could go to another area," Wright said.

Opponents are already raising questions about this legislature's ability to prioritize state concerns, pointing out our education crisis and funding shortfalls.

"Really, do we trust these men and women at 23rd and Lincoln who can't seem to run basic functions of government?" said ACLU of Oklahoma President Ryan Kiesel. "Do we really trust these men and women to put a needle in your arm? Do we trust them to put a mask on your face or put you in front of a firing squad and take your life?"

The next legislative session begins Feb. 6.

READ: HB 1679 

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