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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: February 20, 2007

Senator Debbe Leftwich
Senator Debbe Leftwich

Senate Committee Approves Bill Clarifying Child Neglect Definition

The Senate Judiciary Committee has given approval to a measure that would clarify how Oklahoma law defines child neglect. Senate Bill 790, by Senator Debbe Leftwich, was approved on Tuesday. Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, said the legislation is supported by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth and is designed to close a loophole in the statutes that can prevent neglect charges from being filed against parents, even when their lack of supervision is the cause of a child’s death.

Under current state law, several conditions are listed that must be proven in order to charge a person with neglect, including lack of food, shelter, medical care, proper clothing “and” supervision. The problem is, the statute says “and” instead of “or.”

“That means it isn’t enough that a person’s neglect caused the death of a child. If they’ve provided a home and food and everything else, it doesn’t matter. They can’t be charged with neglect,” Leftwich said. “It’s outrageous and it needs to change. That’s why I authored SB 790.”

Leftwich said the legislation came about as the result of a child neglect case in Duncan. The woman had placed her baby in the bathtub and then went to take a nap. The baby was later found dead by the child’s father. The woman was originally charged with second-degree murder, but that charge was dismissed.
Under Oklahoma law, in order to charge someone with murder rather than manslaughter, a felony charge such as neglect, is required. Now, instead of facing a possible life sentence for second degree murder, the woman is facing a maximum of only four years for second degree manslaughter.

“I am hopeful that we can move this bill quickly through the Senate and House and send it to Governor Henry for his signature,” Leftwich said. “If a parent’s neglect causes a child’s death, then the court should be able to convict them of that crime.”

For more information contact:
Senator Leftwich's Office - (405) 521-5557

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