Supporters Say Death Penalty Reforms Ahead for Oklahoma after SQ 776 Passes Overwhelmingly

Supporters Say Death Penalty Reforms Ahead for Oklahoma after SQ 776 Passes Overwhelmingly

The passage of SQ 776 means the Oklahoma Constitution will now state the death penalty isn't cruel and unusual punishment.

PHOTO: FILE – This Oct. 9, 2014, file photo shows the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. An Oklahoma grand jury investigating the state’s execution procedures said Thursday, May 19, 2016 that a top lawyer for Gov. Mary Fallin encouraged the use of the wrong lethal injection drug in an execution that was later called off. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

With voters having overwhelmingly approved State Question 776, supporters say the measure will ultimately allow the Legislature to move forward with reforms on how capital punishment is implemented in Oklahoma.

The passage of SQ 776 means the Oklahoma Constitution will now state the death penalty isn’t cruel and unusual punishment. Out of all 1,956 precincts, 66.37 percent of voters supported the measure, 941,336 to 477,057.

Supporters of adding the new section to the state constitution wanted to protect the death penalty and ensure capital punishment still would be available even if the current method of lethal injection is found to be unconstitutional.

The question stated the Legislature is expressly empowered to designate any method of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. It also said death sentences shall not be reduced because a method of execution is ruled to be invalid.

“If the pharmaceutical companies continue to block the production of the drugs that are for lethal injection, then the next method automatically rolls over and defaults into what we have available, such as nitrogen gas,” the electric chair, firing squad and hanging, said state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, a co-author.

Ritze also said Wednesday that he believes the measure will end the “logjam” of people sitting on death row for many years.

Another co-author, state Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, said, “Now we no longer have to deal with the question of whether or not we have capital punishment.

“As a member of the Legislature, I think it’s now important for us to look into the reform measures dealing with the death penalty … to make sure that we are executing individuals in the most humane way possible,” Jordan said Wednesday.

Jordan also said the measure will ensure “that when there is a brutal crime committed, the heart-cry of the public is actually met.”

According to the Oklahoma Secretary of State website, the measure “shall take effect and be in force when it shall have been approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon and not otherwise.”

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