“It must be done right,” Bipartisan commission calls for extended moratorium on executions, sweeping reforms

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OKLAHOMA - Executions should stay on hold.

That’s the recommendation from a group led by former Governor Brad Henry investigating the death penalty in Oklahoma.

It was a unanimous decision.

The Death Penalty Review Commission said our state leaders have to address some big problems with the death penalty in Oklahoma before another person receives the ultimate punishment.

“A whole lot of things need to be fixed,” former Governor Brad Henry said.

A panel of 11 people from legal experts to victims’ advocates made more than 40 recommendations for the death penalty in our state.

“We didn’t come out and say the death penalty should be abolished. We said if you’re going to have it, it must be done right,” Gov. Henry said.

The commission began its work after a pair of controversial executions in 2014 and 2015, and the drug mix-up surrounding Richard Glossip’s execution.

In its 300 page report, the commission found there’s too much room for error with our current three-drug execution cocktail.

“We believe the current best practice is a one-drug barbiturate protocol,” Gov. Henry said.

We know the criminal justice system isn’t perfect.

10 people have been exonerated from Oklahoma’s death row.

About two dozen others have been freed from life sentences.

The Innocence Project at Oklahoma City University School of Law helped free two Tulsa men just last year.

“We do not want that to happen in Oklahoma. Even one person wrongfully convicted is enough to really look at the system and correct it,” Dean Valerie Couch, who served on the Death Penalty Review Commission, said.

An underlying problem to some flaws in the system is money.

Last year, lawmakers cut funding to the state’s indigent defense system by more than $1 million when those attorneys’ caseloads had doubled.

And what does a death penalty case cost?
The commission found a capital case tried by a public defender costs the state about $60,000 more than a murder case when the death penalty is off the table.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too. That’s what we’re doing now. We have the death penalty, but we’re not paying for it. And as a result, it’s systemic flaws and innocent people being sent to death row. That's unacceptable,” Gov. Henry said.

It’s been more than two years since the state has carried out an execution.

The commission is hoping Governor Fallin and the legislature take a serious look at the recommendations.

Click here to read the full report.

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