OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – No one has been executed in Oklahoma since 2015, and one state representative wants to keep it that way.
New legislation is in the system to make capital punishment a thing of the past in Oklahoma.
“House Bill 2876 is a bill that would effectively end the death penalty in Oklahoma as a form of punishment moving forward,” Rep. Jason Dunnington said.
Dunnington is talking about legislation slated for the new session in February.
“It’s hard to say we need to keep the death sentence as a penalty because it keeps people from committing crimes when there is no evidence to show that it does,” Dunnington said.
The lawmaker from OKC says it cost twice as much to keep a prisoner on death row than it does a life sentence. He says since 1976, for every 10 inmates executed in the US, one has been exonerated.
“I don’t like the odds of one in 10 people not being guilty but still being killed by states,” Dunnington said.
“The state has other means to protect its citizens, and the use of the death penalty is really not necessary,” said The Most Revered Paul S. Coakley.
The House bill is getting support from the Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Oklahoma says the church supports the sanctity of all life and that doesn’t make them soft on crime.
“We want to be very clear in our support of the victims of crime, but I think we need to balance that with the recognition that contributing more violence to a society that is already very violent only coarsens our society,” Coakley said.
“I think there are some circumstances where the death penalty is warranted,” Sentator Frank Simpson said.
He says he would be opposed to the new house bill. The Republican from South Central Oklahoma doesn’t think the financial argument holds water.
“I don’t completely buy into it that is more expensive. I think if we made decisions like that just based on dollars and cents, we might lose sense of the victims that are behind the crime,” Simpson said.
But Dunnington, a Democrat, says his bill crosses party lines.
“ I really don’t think this is a partisan issue at all. I’ve already had Republicans, Independent, Libertarians reach out to our office and let us know that they are in support of ending the death penalty in the State of Oklahoma,” Dunnington said.
If the bill does pass, it would take effect in November and would only be for cases moving forward, not change sentences already issued.