Logical Move: End The Death Penalty In Oklahoma

The fact that Oklahoma’s temporary moratorium on the death penalty will hold up at least through the end of the year is good news for those of us here who want to abolish capital punishment.

What this means, of course, is that if Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins the election she perhaps can have time to appoint a new U.S. Supreme Court Justice who can act as the swing vote in finally ending the barbaric practice throughout the country and before another botched execution in Oklahoma.

That’s the good news, and yet another reason why Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump must be defeated. The only way he can be defeated is if Clinton is elected. The stakes on this and other issues are high, and they will impact Oklahoma. The overall popular vote does matter in terms of mandates even if it’s unlikely Clinton will win Oklahoma.

The bad news is the Oklahoma voters will get to vote on State Question 776, which would make the state’s judicial and corrections system—at least on paper—double down on its use and potential use of the death penalty.

Here’s the text that will be added to the Oklahoma Constitution as an amendment, according to Ballotpedia, if the question is approved in the Nov. 8 election:

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No Relief From The Heat

Scientists throughout the world have issued another report about the growing threat of global warming on the planet, but here in Oklahoma at least some of our conservative leaders, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, deny it or simply just don’t care.

The “State of the Climate 2015” report used the contributions of more than 450 scientists. It was published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. It notes that greenhouse gases, global surface temperature and sea surface temperatures were the highest ever recorded in 2015. Meanwhile, global sea levels rose to a record high and the arctic continues to warm as well. The report was led by the National Centers for Environmental Information at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations.

You can find the report here and in the above tweet. According to the report, “The year’s exceptional warmth was fueled in part by a nearly year-round mature El Niño event . . .”.

The report goes on to note, “The year 2015 also marked the first time the global average surface temperature reached more than 1°C above the average of the mid- to late-19th century, a period in which temperatures are commonly taken to be representative of pre industrial conditions.”

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Message of Retribution

Image of David Prater

I have meant for some time to revisit some courtroom statements made by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater in a case in which a man was recently sentenced to death. I thought about it again after attending last night’s meeting as a board member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The man Prater’s statements referred to is Albert Ray Johnson, 49, who was convicted in June of raping his girlfriend and her friend, beating both of them, and then killing his girlfriend’s friend. He was sentenced to death by a jury for the murder. The late Oklahoma County District Judge Donald Deason formally sentenced him to death in July. Johnson also has previous felony convictions for violent crimes, according to one media report.

As reported in the media, one of Prater’s arguments in the case was that this was a strong one for the death penalty. During arguments, as reported, Prater said, “Whether this defendant is incarcerated or out, he is a very dangerous human being. It's time to look at what he did. If you give him life without parole, what's the message?" Prater continued to tell the jury, “You will not have a stronger case to consider the death penalty on.”

It’s true that it’s difficult to make a strong if any case for Johnson’s rehabilitation given his history, violent nature of his crimes and age, but I’m opposed to the death penalty even in cases like this. Johnson will end up in an appeals process that will take years and will be paid for by taxpayers. It’s even quite possible the U.S. Supreme Court could abolish the death penalty while Johnson awaits his fate on death row, meaning the taxpayer money spent on his appeals to reverse the death-penalty decision will be for nothing. In addition, it’s unlikely that Johnson will receive adequate mental health services, which could create problems for correction officers. At the trial, his public defender conceded Johnson killed the woman—the crime for which he received the death penalty—but argued Johnson suffers from mental illness.

The meme goes something like this: “We kill people to show people that they shouldn’t kill people."

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