Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Early in his tenure as interim director at Oklahoma’s troubled Department of Corrections, Joe Allbaugh told The Tulsa World he believed in the death penalty and that it would one day resume in Oklahoma.
Concerning the controversies that for a time made Oklahoma the center of national attention on the issue – including a sequence of botched executions, the use of the wrong drugs in at least one instance and near-use in a second – Allbaugh said, “I am confident what has happened before will not happen again. … We will be ready, and I have confidence in the men and women on the team and the individuals that it will be done right.”
A few days later, Attorney General Scott Pruitt told this reporter he would press to renew executions in Oklahoma once a multi-country grand jury report on the last two years of controversy is been released. That report could have come a month ago, but did not. The next possible date for its release is late this month.
The grand jury has been investigating the execution process, including the near-execution of Richard Glossip, a man many believe to be innocent, last September. Prison officials came within hours of using the wrong drugs for lethal injection. On at least one other occasion, Pruitt revealed last year, state officials used the wrong drugs to carry out an execution.
Pruitt says he “won’t ask the court to set an execution date until at least 150 days” after the report is released.
Pruitt has said it is “critical” that the state gets the protocol for death penalty procedures right. Asked what process he would use, and who is involved in its creation, he said:
“Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol has been upheld as constitutional. My office successfully defended the protocol last year before the U.S. Supreme Court. The constitutionality of the protocol isn’t at issue. Rather, it’s the administration of the protocol by the Department of Corrections that’s at question.”
In what the Associated Press designated its “Big Story” for March 11, Oklahoma state capital reporter Sean Murphy detailed an interview with Pruitt, in which the second-term Republican attorney general said, “It’s important that as state officials, when the people of Oklahoma have said unequivocally that the death penalty is the right form of punishment in certain instances … that we carry that out in a very sober and thoughtful way.”
While support for executions in surveys of public opinion have eroded somewhat, a majority of Oklahomans still support the death penalty. However, if given an alternative, more now say they would oppose it.
Now is the time for one more round of discussion (thoughtful, please) before another round of state-sanctioned killings begin.
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