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

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For Immediate Release: March 12, 2008

Senator Jonathan Nichols
Sen. Jonathan Nichols

Sen. Nichols Passes Legislation Protecting Victim’s Right to Reference God in Impact Statements

Sen. Jonathan Nichols has won overwhelming approval for a measure to protect the right of victims to discuss their religious beliefs or reference the bible when giving impact statements in court. The measure, Senate Bill 2004, was approved Wednesday 43 to 2.

Nichols said he filed the legislation in response to last year’s decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn the death penalty in the Trooper Nikky Joe Green murder trial. The Court reversed the imposition of the death penalty for Green’s killer, Ricky Ray Malone, in part because Green’s widow referenced God and the Bible in her impact statement.

“There was absolutely nothing in state law that prevented Mrs. Green from discussing her faith during her impact statement,” said Nichols, R-Norman. “”My legislation protects the rights of victims to talk about their belief in God or the Bible.”

Citing specific statements by Green’s widow in which she referenced God and the Bible, three of the five justices on the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that “invocation of a religious belief and obligation in the context of a capital sentencing recommendation is totally inappropriate.” Nichols, a former prosecutor, said he was shocked by the opinion.

“I was outraged that the Court of Criminal Appeals would force the Green family to endure the trauma of another sentencing phase because she talked about God and the Bible,” Nichols said. “The Court went out of its way to unnecessarily consider this non-issue of whether to ban God and the Bible from victim impact statements,” Nichols said. “This was a prime example of judicial activism running amuck.”

Nichols praised Presiding Judge Gary Lumpkin who wrote in his dissenting opinion that he “found nothing in appropriate about references in victim impact evidence to God and the Bible. It seems as though courts have become overly phobic of any references to God or the Bible.”

“With SB 2004, we are going to clarify that victims do have the right to talk about their faith,” Nichols said. “No family should have to endure the nightmare of a second sentencing because they mentioned God.”

SB 2004 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

For more information contact:
Senator Nichol's Office:  (405) 521-5535

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