State Legislature passes death penalty measures
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Published: 09-Apr-2015

OKLAHOMA CITY - On April 9, legislators advanced proposals intended, the authors said, "the support and defend the death penalty for the state's worst criminals."

Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, and Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, co-sponsored measures in each chamber of the Oklahoma State Legislature.

Last Thursday at the Capitol, the House of Representatives passed Sykes Senate Joint Resolution 31, which would send to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment that, if approved, ensures that death penalty statutes are in effect, that methods of execution can be changed, and that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment.

Sykes said it was an urgent priority for the Senate to ensure that the state can administer the death penalty for our most heinous criminals.

The House approved the measure 80-10, with 11 members not voting. The Senate had advanced S.J.R. 31 without opposition in early March.

"We have an obligation to the people of Oklahoma to ensure that we can effectively enforce the death penalty," Sykes said in a prepared statement. "Oklahomans strongly support the death penalty, and it is critical that we protect our ability to enforce it. This week, we will take action to guarantee that the will of the people is carried out."

The Senate passed without opposition Rep. Christian's House Bill 1879, which would replace the current multi-drug lethal injection format, and authorize executions of death row inmates via nitrogen hypoxia. Christian believes it is critical that the Legislature act to ensure the state can carry out the death penalty.

"With the current method of executions under attack and judicial scrutiny, it is imperative that we find an alternate way of delivering justice,"said Christian, R-Oklahoma City. "Through an in-depth interim study, we have found that death by nitrogen hypoxia is the easiest, most humane, and cost effective way of carrying out the death penalty."

Capital punishment in the United States has been under continuous criticism in recent years. Oklahoma's protocols and death penalty procedures came under intense scrutiny when a revised lethal drug mixture was used in the execution of Clayton Lockett last year. The execution, widely described as "botched" took much longer than anticipated, and reporters described him as "writhing" on the gurney where he was placed before the drugs were injected.

The state's process and implementation of death penalties are under review before the U.S. Supreme Court, with arguments scheduled for later this month.

NOTE: Publisher Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.

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