Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: August 22, 2011
Sen. Johnson responds to AG’s comments on life without parole
for nonviolent drug crimes
“In his press release last Friday, Attorney
General Scott Pruitt made factually untrue statements with a political
spin intended to distract from the real issue -- the extreme cost
of unnecessarily locking up people for life for nonviolent drug
“The true facts in the Larry Yarbrough case were diligently
reviewed by an eminently qualified Pardon and Parole Board. After
careful deliberation, the Board voted to recommend to Governor Fallin
commutation of Larry Yarborough’s life sentence to 42 years.
The Boardspent significant time reviewing this information in anticipation
of the scrutiny this case is receiving now. In fact, some of the
members of the present board were already extremely familiar with
the case, since they were serving on the Board in 2002, when it
voted unanimously to commute Larry’s sentence to 20 years,
a recommendation that then-Gov. Keating unfortunately refused to
follow. The simple truth is that the Board is a great deal more
familiar with the facts of Larry Yarborough’s case than Attorney
General Pruitt is.
“The AG’s lengthy and unsubstantiated statements appear
to be intended to force the Governor to reject the Board’s
recommendation, regardless of its merit. Such behavior is totally
unacceptable political grandstanding by the AG. I trust that the
Governor cannot be duped by such tactics into foregoing her fiduciary
duty to taxpayers to correct such a wasteful practice in these tough
“I do, however, completely agree with Attorney General Pruitt
when he said, ‘The discussion of criminal justice reform may
be necessary in Oklahoma .’ It certainly is a necessary discussion,
and it is starting now. My SB 986 will help begin that discussion.
Its goal is to address the tremendous costs to the state of incarcerating
the 48 people who are presently serving LWOP sentences for drug
crimes. We will accomplish this through a process similar to that
utilized by the Board last week. Best estimates are that, by the
time these 48 people age and die in prison, Oklahoma will have spent
more than $50.6 million on them in housing and medical costs alone.
In many cases the crimes for which they have been convicted involved
less than $500 worth of drugs. SB 986 will also eliminate this punishment
in the future.
It is time to be smarter about how we use taxpayer money. This is
no time to be justifying the waste of taxpayer money with emotional
arguments based on false information intended to provoke public
fear. Instead I am here and now calling for the end to the use of
misinformation intended to confuse policy makers and the public.
Let’s keep the discussion rational and factual, and let’s
start being smart on crime for a change.”
For more information, contact:
Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5531