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

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2016

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Sen. Anastasia Pittman
Sen. Anastasia Pittman

Bill to change state execution protocol fails to receive hearing before deadline

Citing recent concerns surrounding state execution procedures, State Senator Anastasia Pittman authored legislation that would have changed the list of people who would be eligible to witness a state execution at the State Penitentiary in McAlester and addressed what Pittman calls “the cloak of secrecy” that currently buffers the execution process in Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 1559, which was not heard due to the committee chair’s refusal to consider the measure, would have removed the secrecy component of current state law to shield the identity of the people and companies who supply the drugs, medical supplies and equipment for the execution process. The bill also added a stipulation to allow two members of the defendant’s current legal counsel to witness the execution in person, as well as provide access to all areas and procedures prior to their client’s execution. The legislation was created in response to a series of perceived botched state executions last year when incorrect drugs were used and the prisoner was found to have suffered as a result.

“The state’s obligation to preserve life and dignity shouldn’t end at the prison’s door,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “As a state, we spend a lot of time and energy at the beginning of life to positively impact lives, but we’re quick to forget those investments when someone veers off the path and finds themselves on the wrong side of the law. This measure would have ensured transparency to a terribly heinous process, with the hope that if the state intends to kill offenders, the process should be flawless in terms of administering lethal drugs appropriately and carrying out final orders correctly.”

Pittman authored SB 1559 with input from former state Senator Connie Johnson, who now serves as chairwoman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, as the first step in her opposition of the death penalty in Oklahoma.

“We aren’t going to eliminate the death penalty in Oklahoma overnight, but this legislation could have been a fundamental first step in ensuring the procedures being used on death row are transparent and those in charge are being held to a precise and clear standard of operation,” said Pittman. “Our initial goal was to cast light on the issue through the presentation of SB 1559 and continue to bridge the gap and push for the elimination of the death penalty in our state.”

Pittman noted State Question 776, which is on the November 8th ballot this fall, is another hurdle in the effort to change perspective regarding the death penalty. Upon voter approval, the measure would establish constitutional language asserting all methods of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the US Constitution. SQ 776 would also forbid the death penalty from being considered cruel or unusual punishment.

"As state leaders, we need to decide if we are going to be just pro-birth or follow through and support life from beginning to end,” said Pittman. “When we’re spending more state dollars on executions than we spend per pupil in public education, it’s time revisit our priorities.”

For more information, contact:
Sen. Pittman: (405) 521-5531

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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