Representative introduces bill to remove death penalty option from state crime statutes

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SECOND REGULAR SESSION OF OKLAHOMA'S 57th LEGISLATURE CONVENES TODAY, FEB. 3. 

  •  House Bill 2876 was recently filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session
    House Bill 2876 was recently filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Is capital punishment a deterrent to crime?

State Rep. Jason Dunnington doesn’t think it is and recently filed House Bill 2876 for consideration during the 2020 legislative session. If passed and signed into law, the measure will amend statutes which relate to the definition of a felony; removing the death penalty as an option for punishment; updating language and specifying which death penalty cases are subject to certain sentencing procedures.

The Oklahoma City Democrat said capital punishment is “a system that provides no deterrent to crime while flushing millions down the drain that could be better spent on responses to violence that actually work.” Text of the proposed bill doesn’t outline what alternative “responses to violence” might be considered; it would strike from state law references to death as a permissible punishment.

Dunnington’s bill isn’t the first time the proposal has been made in the House of Representatives to abolish the death penalty in Oklahoma. The Wichita, Kan., Daily Eagle reported in its Feb. 13, 1915, edition that, “The committee on criminal jurisprudence made an unfavorable report on the bill abolishing capital punishment, and the House rejected the unfavorable report by a vote of 36 to 31 without debate.”

Just over 100 years later, Oklahomans went to the polls in November 2016 and approved State Question 776 (also known as the “Death Penalty Amendment”). This legislative referendum amended the state Constitution to say that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment and gave the legislature, rather than the judicial or executive branches of government, the authority to provide for any method of administering the death penalty not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. The measure also added Article II Section 9A to the state Constitution which allows the new section approved by voters in 2016 to be subject to legislative amendment or repeal by statute, initiative or referendum.