For Immediate Release:
May 24, 2007
Senator Debbe Leftwich
Senate Gives Final Approval to Bill Clarifying Child Neglect Definition
The “Letha Kay Louise Slate Act” is now one step closer
to becoming law. The measure, authored by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, closes
a loophole in current Oklahoma law impacting child neglect cases.
The measure, part of Senate Bill 790, won final passage in the Senate
on Thursday. Leftwich said the legislation is named for a Stephen’s
County baby who drowned in a bathtub while her mother took a nap.
Under the current law, several conditions are listed that must be
proven in order to charge a person with neglect. Those include lack
of food, shelter, medical care, proper clothing “and”
supervision. Defense attorneys successfully argued that the mother
did not violate all five conditions, and therefore the case did
not meet the definition of neglect.
“Letha drowned because of neglect. But because the law said
‘and’ instead of ‘or,’ the judge ruled the
case didn’t meet the legal definition of neglect,” said
Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “Because of that, she was convicted
of a much lesser charge and given a lighter sentence. When I heard
this story, I knew we had to change the law so this wouldn’t
The baby’s father, John Slate, had pushed for the measure
to change the definition of neglect, and said he was extremely grateful
to Leftwich for championing the bill. Slate felt the legislation
gave meaning to his daughter’s tragedy.
“With this bill, I truly believe in my heart that this is
why my little girl had to die now. I believe that she had to die
so this could happen and other kids could be safe and be protected,”
Leftwich said SB 790 also included a measure requested by the grandmother
of Kelsey Briggs, the 2-year-old Oklahoma girl who died as a result
of child abuse after a judge returned her to her mother and stepfather.
Leftwich said she had worked with Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, to
include the language requiring the Department of Human Services
and the Commission on Children and Youth to disclose more information
on child death and near death cases when requested.
The measure now returns to the House of Representatives for a final
vote. If approved, the bill will be sent to Gov. Brad Henry for
For more information, contact:
Senator Leftwich's Office: (405) 521-5557