OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of lawmakers and pro-life advocates have called for a moratorium on Oklahoma’s executions.
Representative Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, said he has tried for years to bring legislative change to the state’s executions but has never made much progress. He said he has seen a shift that could lead to more progress when it comes to a moratorium on executions.
Nearly a dozen others joined McDugle at the Capitol Wednesday, calling for change, and expressing a concern with the current policies.
“The way we are doing things right now degrades the dignity of human life for everybody,” said John-Mark Hart, pastor at Christ Community Church. “We know at least 10 innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death in Oklahoma history. We know that there are serious questions about the guilt of people who are currently on death row right now.”
A January poll, commissioned by the Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, showed 77% of Oklahoma voters supported pausing executions.
“When offered an alternative to the death penalty, including life without parole, with the possibility of parole, the minimum sentence, Oklahoma prefer some version of a lighter sentence,” said Demetrius Minor, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
Minor said 78% of Oklahomans would support a lesser sentence.
“The poll does show a strong support for the death penalty in Oklahoma,” said McDugle. “However, it also shows a strong result that they want to make sure that we’re not executing innocent people and putting them to death.”
Last year, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission issued a report to legislators requesting change when it came to Oklahoma executions. Not much on that list has changed yet, but McDugle did say he spoke with the new director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections about his concerns. The department did change how it prepares inmates in the weeks before their execution. Instead of being monitored 45 days out, the department has trimmed that timeline down to seven days.
“They get to keep their belongings until that time, and they no longer have four weeks on 24/7 supervision,” said McDugle. “So that’s one positive change.
Adam Luck was the chairman of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board before his resignation in 2021. He said he resigned because he voted for clemency in five executions and got push back for his vote.
“The proximity I have to these decisions not only removed any confidence I may have had, it raised serious questions about the death penalty,” said Luck.
If a moratorium would be issued it would either have to come from Governor Kevin Stitt or through legislation.