OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A new Oklahoma bill could help make sure death row inmates’ sentences are correct.
“This is not to do away with the death penalty, this is to make sure we got it right,” said Representative Justin Humphrey. The Republican from Lane added, “If I have four aces in a card game, I’m never going to be bashful about showing my four aces and if we’re going to execute people, that’s the kind of hand we have to have.”
House Bill 1551 would establish a “Conviction Integrity Review Unit.” The unit would review if there is a “plausible claim of actual innocence which is supported by information or evidence not previously presented and is capable of being investigated and resolved.”
“When we’re getting close to a death penalty case, [the board would] take the time to look and see: is there any new evidence? Was there a very poor job done? Is there a reason that we should hit a pause?” said Rep. Humphrey.
According to the bill, the direct appeal of the inmate must also be final with a mandate that there is no pending litigation relating to the conviction.
The unit’s findings would then be presented to the Pardon and Parole Board.
The Representative said death row inmate, Richard Glossip’s case is what sparked this bill being filed. Glossip was convicted of ordering the 1997 beating death of motel owner Barry Van Treese in Oklahoma City in what prosecutors said was a murder-for-hire.
“I don’t see how in the world they ever got a conviction and that’s what I think we’ll find if we look deeper into it,” said Rep. Humphrey.
Glossip is currently sitting on death row, awaiting his execution.
House Bill 1551 passed committee on Friday and is awaiting action on the house floor.