SQ 776 and the Methods of Execution in OK

SQ 776 and the Methods of Execution in OK

In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 photo, Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, speaks on Oklahoma state question 776 in Oklahoma City. The state question is asking Oklahoma voters to enshrine the death penalty in the state’s nearly 100-year-old constitution and is facing opposition from groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma’s statewide, general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and there are seven state questions that will be on the ballot. One of those seven questions will address method of execution for death row inmates, and it will also state that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual.

A ‘yes’ vote for SQ776 will put the death penalty in Oklahoma’s constitution and will allow any method of execution to be used as long as it is legal under the federal constitution.

The death penalty is currently legal in Oklahoma.

Lethal injection is currently the primary form of execution in the state; however, statutes allow gas inhalation, electrocution and firing squads as back up options. Voting ‘yes’ will keep these practices in use.

Oklahoma is ranked second in the country for the most executions a year, placing after Texas.

The state’s use of the death penalty faced some criticism due to a botched execution that took place in 2014. Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, who was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery, lived for 43 minutes after the lethal injection drugs were administered before he died of a heart attack.

It was the state’s first attempt at using a new, three-drug concoction for an execution. This prompted state officials to place a ban on state executions until an investigation could determine what exactly went wrong.

It also halted the execution of Charles Warner that was scheduled for later that day.

Warner’s execution took place in 2015, and although he showed no physical signs of distress, he did say “my body is on fire” while laying on the gurney. He was pronounced dead 18 minutes after the lethal injection drugs were administered.

An anti-SQ776 group called Think Twice Oklahoma has been urging voters to think hard before voting ‘yes’ on SQ776. Members of the group said the state question not only cripples the judicial arm of government, but it would cost taxpayers an inordinate amount of  money to defend challenges and to carry out executions.

There have been 156 people who have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in the United States before a court order reversed their death sentences because of DNA evidence, ineffective defense lawyers or new information about the crimes. Oklahoma has wrongly convicted 10 death penalty survivors since the 1970s.

Thirty-two states currently utilize the death penalty, and three states — New Mexico, Maryland, and Connecticut — have voted to abolish it since 2009.

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