Oklahoma lawmakers consider changing laws surrounding capitol punishment as the state prepares to resume executions

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s been five years since Oklahoma has executed a death row inmate after the botched execution of Charles Warner; now, Oklahoma lawmakers are considering making changes in capitol punishment trials and the execution process.

On Wednesday, several people embedded in the process spoke to the House Public Safety Committee for an interim study.

“I have been brought to the brink of execution three times,” said attorney Don Knight, reading a letter from his client, death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Glossip has been on death row for 23 years, and has exhausted all of his appeals. He could be the first person executed in the state since 2015.

But new evidence and witnesses brought forward by his attorney prompted State Rep. Kevin McDugle of Broken Arrow to call the study.

“There’s enough doubt in my mind that I believe if we execute Richard Glossip, that we’ve executed an innocent person,” Rep. McDugle said.

He expressed frustration at how little power state lawmakers and the governor have over delaying the execution process in cases like these, where they may have serious doubts about a person’s guilty.

According to state statute, the only chance for Glossip at this point is his clemency hearing in front of the Pardon and Parole Board, which will take place 23 days before his execution.

Limitations in the appeals process, financing indigent defense cases, and ineffective attorneys are some of the issues brought forward by speakers.

But Rep. McDugle said he fears the process for changing the law won’t work fast enough to affect death row inmates at the top of the execution list.

Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow addressed the issues with the three drug lethal injection that caused a 2015 botched execution, and brought a halt to all others since.

He said new protocols create a sturdy checks and balances system, and that department staff are trained and ready.

“Those drugs are actually verified at each step of the process from the point in time that they are received from where we’re receiving them from, to every person that handles those, it’s validated to the point that the drugs are actually loaded into the syringes,” Crow said.

In February, the state announced it is ready to resume lethal injection, then attorneys for death row inmates challenged the drug protocol in federal court.

But Attorney General Mike Hunter said the litigation could resolve early next year.

Now lawmakers determined to make any necessary changes to ensure innocent Oklahomans are not executed, a scenario some on Wednesday believe has been a reality since the punishment was boded into the state constitution.

“I believe that probably most Oklahomans voted for that on the premise that we think that it works like it does, that it says that it does,” said Christy Shepherd with the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, “and it very much does not.”

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