An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

UCO debates Oklahoma Justice Commission

By James Coburn – Edmond Sun, April 14, 2014

UCO Debate TeamEDMOND — A 1-percent chance that an innocent person could be executed for murder is justification to end capital punishment, said Greg Munday, who favors the abolition of the capital punishment.

The American Democracy Project of the University of Central Oklahoma on Saturday hosted a debate on the best strategy to end the death penalty.

The debate did not focus on whether the death penalty is a good or bad idea, said professor Matthew Moore, UCO debate team director. Instead, the debate focused on whether or not the Oklahoma Justice Commission report is a good solution, Moore said.

“We are asking the question of whether the Oklahoma Justice reforms will actually result in the abolishment of the death penalty,” Moore said.

Derek Hilligoss spoke in favor of the OJC reforms, while Munday and Austin Fredericks argued against the OJC reforms. Each of the speakers spoke against the death penalty, while favoring a sentence of life in prison without parole.

“Innocent people are dying everyday due to the lack of reforms in our criminal justice system,” Hilligoss said. “…Four people were on death row before there was exoneration in Oklahoma alone.”

Not only are innocent people being put to death, but the actual cause of the crime is not being solved, Hilligoss said. Convicted people are instantly seen as being guilty in the eyes of everyone, he continued.

Families are being torn apart due to wrongful convictions, Hilligoss argued. Reforms in other states have already improved the number of misidentification cases.

“The Innocence Project shows a case where a lack of reforms of identification allowed a man to be put in jail for 22 years,” Hilligoss said.

The Post Conviction DNA Act would allow anyone who is convicted of murder to at anytime file for DNA testing with evidence found at the scene of the crime, Hilligoss said. This practice has allowed 24 people in New York to be exonerated from wrongful convictions, he said.

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