Today, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission released their findings and recommendations on Oklahoma’s capital punishment system. The ACLU of Oklahoma applauds this courageous report and urges policymakers to consider the recommendations with the speed and seriousness they command.
The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission’s findings and recommendations should serve as a blueprint for Oklahoma policy makers as they grapple with the failures of Oklahoma’s entire criminal justice system, not just those in capital cases. Oklahoma lawmakers would be wise to closely follow the thoughtful, evidence based recommendations by the Commission. Doing so might begin to restore dwindling confidence in all criminal prosecutions, but it is particularly urgent in cases in which the State is seeking the ultimate punishment of death.
We especially appreciate the Commission’s recognition of a need to indefinitely extend the moratorium on all executions in the State of Oklahoma. In addition to making many worthwhile and long overdue recommendations about how we prosecute and convict criminal defendants in the State of Oklahoma, the report clearly outlines the many inherent and unavoidable problems that exist where the criminal justice system intersects with race, class, and gender. In the context of capital punishment, we believe these inherent prejudices make the application of the death penalty unavoidably arbitrary and discriminatory. The only immediately apparent deviation we would make from the Commission’s findings is that the moratorium on executions in the State of Oklahoma should not be indefinite; it should be permanent.
Read a copy of the Commission’s report here.