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

Dead Man Sitting: The future of the death penalty in Oklahoma

August 30, 2016, by Abby Broyles, KFOR News

OKLAHOMA CITY– Except for Texas, Oklahoma executes more inmates than any other state.

But right now, those executions here are on hold, and 47 offenders are just sitting on death row.

What happens next will be up to a new group of decision makers after a long list of mistakes in 2015.
While executions remain on hold, a new independent group is doing something never done before in Oklahoma.

“I think the grand jury’s report should be appalling to Oklahomans,” former Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry said.

Former Governor Brad Henry answered the call from a nonprofit called “The Constitution Project.”

He’s leading the new death penalty review commission. It’s a diverse panel of lawyers and businessmen, republicans, and democrats.

“This is not about making political points at all. It’s all about looking at the data, looking very carefully at the research, and determining the facts in our systems so we can make informed decisions related to our findings and ultimate recommendations,” Henry said.

They’re looking at every issue from the point of arrest to the protocol used in the execution of a death row inmate.

“We’re looking at the confession process, how many confessions are false confessions, see how many are coerced and the processes there,” Henry said.

They’re also researching racial issues and potential problems with juries.

“Eyewitness identification is notoriously unreliable, and so we may be making consensus recommendations that would really be directed toward law enforcement,” Henry said.

The criminal justice system isn’t perfect. Defense attorney Perry Hudson has had an innocent client freed from death row and others released when their cases fell apart.

“We have sent far too many people to death row to simply trust the process, and that’s despite the fact we have honest prosecutors, and we have fair judges, and we have an appellate court that reviews it on the state and federal level,” Hudson said.

Other attorneys stand by the death penalty. They say it’s the only just sentence for the worst of the worst.

Lou Keel prosecuted Charles Warner, the man who raped and killed 11-month-old Adrianna Waller. “Certainly when you make the decision to file a bill of particulars seeking the death penalty, that’s something you have to believe is the right thing to do in your mind and in your heart,” Keel said.

When executions resume in our state, they will be carried out under new leadership.

DOC Director Robert Patton, Warden Anita Trammell, and Steve Mullins, the governor’s top attorney, have all resigned.

“If we are going to have the death penalty in Oklahoma, it must be done right. And it hasn’t been in the past,” Henry said.

Former Governor Henry and his panel plan to present their recommendations before the new legislative session in February.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Scott Pruitt told Newschannel 4 he will not seek another execution for several more months.

Read the entire KFOR story

Gov Brad Henry
Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry leads the first ever Death Penalty Review Commission that is expected to deliver its findings in November 2017.