Debate over Oklahoma State Question 805 continues as early voting begins

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Early voting started Thursday, and one of the most highly debated items on the ballot is Oklahoma State Question 805

If passed, it would restrict judges from considering past offenses when sentencing offenders for non-violent crimes. 

Supporters say SQ 805is much needed criminal justice reform, but opponents call is a gift for the career criminal.  

“I think overall State Question 805 is good for the state because it starts the process of retooling the criminal justice system in Oklahoma.  The criminal justice system has not worked,” Former Judge Ken Adair told News 4.  “We’ve been too harsh, we’ve been to draconian in this state.  We have the highest incarceration in this state.”

Adair spent nine years as a district judge in Oklahoma. 

He says the reform that SQ 805 brings is long overdue, but District Attorneys across the state have spoken out against SQ 805. 

District Attorney’s argue the list of crimes that are considered non-violent is too long, and they need to be able to be considered during sentencing.  

“If 805 passes it freezes all of the violent crimes on the list as of January 1, 2020. The bill the legislature passes takes effect in November,” Payne County DA Laura Thomas said.  “So, if 805 passes it nullifies what your legislature did, and again makes domestic abuse by strangulation a non-violent crime.”

Thomas says SQ 805 keeps prosecutors from being able to let judges and juries know a person has prior felony convictions for something like domestic violence during sentencing. 

“805 proponents keep saying no, the Judge and juries can still know that,” Thomas told KFOR News 4.  “No they can’t.”

Adair disagrees. 

He says a judge can still look at past felonies.  

“Those crimes enhance future punishments.

Under this constitutional amendment for non-violent offenses, that won’t happen anymore,” Adair said.  “It’s still relevant for the purposes of imposing a sentence.”

KFOR will cover the vote on State Question 805 along with all the other issues, and federal, state, and local elections on Tuesday, Nov. 3. You can watch on-air, online, and in our app.

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