Supporting two servant leaders for the Oklahoma County Jail Trust: Opinion

On Monday (September 19), the Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider filling two vacant positions on the Jail Trust.

One nominee is Pastor Derrick Scobey of Ebenezer Baptist Church in northeast Oklahoma City.

Rev. Scobey would replace Loretta Radford, who is scheduled to resign soon to assume a special judge position in Tulsa.

Pastor Scobey presently serves on the jail trust’s Citizens Advisory Board. Scobey is known for his activism opposing possible execution of Julius Jones. He was arrested for misdemeanors relating to impeding the flow of traffic during a demonstration.

The incumbent District Attorney’s attorney brought charges and Scobey’s case is pending in district court.

Ultimately, the governor spared Jones’ life, agreeing in part with a Pardon and Parole Board recommendation for clemency. Jones’ was taken off death row and is serving in prison without the possibility of parole.

Scobey’s name has arisen before for service on the jail trust, but he declined the recommendation, instead encouraging the naming of Adam Luck to the Trust. But now Scobey says he’s ready to serve on the Trust.

Luck could replace former Jail Trustee Joe Albaugh, who left to seek election as a Kay County Commissioner. Luck is CEO of CityCare, and best-known as former chair of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

Luck led the Parole Board in challenging times. He left in January of this year.

As he did so, he wrote on his Facebook page:

“At the Governor’s request, I am resigning as the Chair and as a member of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. It has been an honor to work alongside the board members and staff over the last three years. I am proud of what we accomplished and I am confident that will continue.

“I am grateful to Governor Stitt for the opportunity to serve in this role. Reviewing thousands of cases over the last three years has deepened my convictions about what needs to change in Oklahoma. While it will not be in this position, I do look forward to continuing this work.”

In a January 14 letter to the chief executive of Oklahoma, Luck wrote:

“When I began service on this board there was a moratorium on executions in the state of Oklahoma. As we resumed executions in October I came to the conclusion that guided my votes during the five clemency hearings our board conducted. I understand these beliefs differ from yours and while I could continue my service I wish to honor your request and allow you to appoint an individual more aligned with your position.

“I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve in this capacity over the last three years. We both know how much was accomplished and are equally aware of how much is still to be done. I believe the board is well-equipped to continue their part of that work.”

After expressing thanks to the Pardon and Parole Board staff, Luck concluded to Stitt:

[T]hank you for entrusting me with the responsibility to be a part of and lead this board.”

District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey, in weekend news stories, was quoted saying he thought both Scobey and Luck will be approved for the Jail Trust during the Monday, September 19 meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

District 1 Commissioner 1 Carrie Blumert said she will be “happy to support” Luck and believes he and Scobey “will be great additions.”

District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan called the pair “controversial choices” and “my guess is there will be public input.”

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Background on Adam Luck

Luck was a compassionate and impactful Pardon and Parole Board leader. Scobey is a man obviously willing to sacrifice himself to serve others in need. Scobey might seem a closer judgment call to the County Commissioners, but he would bring his own brand of wisdom to the Trust, if approved.

As I reflected earlier this year in a news analysis:

The Pardon and Parole Board is a constitutional agency, and the state’s chief executive has explicit constitutional powers in the death penalty process. In fact, governors have power in most states that retain capital punishment to impede or prevent executions, or to impact their timing.”

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Luck and others who served on the Pardon and Parole Board brought to that panel long-stated perspectives on criminal justice issues that incline toward reform of the state’s legal system, including the matter of capital punishment.

Words of Encouragement and Support for both men

Luck’s earlier service was honorable and, to be clear, the State Supreme Court rejected attempts by the incumbent District Attorney to prevent Luck and a majority of the board at that time from even considering the Jones’ case over alleged “conflicts of interest.”

Statutory and other provisions for pardon, parole and commutation – including for the capital punishment process – have evolved in recent years, while remaining rooted in the state’s constitutional strictures.

In the particular proceedings surrounding the Jones commutation, attacks and public pressure – on the governor’s appointment powers, on the Pardon and Parole Board as a body and on its individual members, and ultimately on the state chief executive’s powers – fortunately, fell short.

As a resident of Oklahoma City/County, a life-long student of the law, and an advocate of both effective law enforcement and substantive judicial reform, I encourage the members of the Board of Commissioners to approve both Luck and Scobey for service on the Jail Trust.