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Gov. Fallin signs death penalty measure, execution critics decry her decision

Gas Chamber pic

Staff Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin on Friday (April 17) signed House Bill 1879, a measure allowing the state to perform executions through nitrogen hypoxia if the current method of execution – lethal injection – is ruled unconstitutional or becomes unavailable. The United States Supreme Court is currently reviewing Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols.

Foes of capital punishment, invigorated by the pending High Court review, immediately decried Fallin’s agreement with the legislation .l

Lydia Polley, former chair of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty, said, “The costs of the death penalty are exorbitant — from 3 to 5 million (dollars) more than life in prison would have cost. And these wasted tax dollars do not achieve it’s goals:  deterrence or protection of the public. The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty wants our tax dollars to be spent on improving public safety, better funding of public education, to support victims’ families, and to solve cold cases.  It is a waste of our tax doliars to set up another method of execution, or for a constitutional amendment to name methods for executions.”

Under current Oklahoma law, if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional or otherwise becomes unavailable, the state can revert to the electric chair as a second alternative and firing squad as the third alternative for capital punishment. H.B. 1879 makes nitrogen hypoxia the second alternative, electric chair the third and firing squad the final alternative.

Nitrogen hypoxia causes loss of consciousness and then death from lack of oxygen.

Former state Sen. Connie Johnson, a Democrat who is a member of the OK-CADP board of directors, said in a statement sent to The City Sentinel, “With a flick of her pen, Gov. Mary Fallin today reinforced our state’s standard and reputation for enacting shameful, backwards, and anti-humanitarian policies. At a time when there is worldwide awareness of the death penalty’s tremendous cost to taxpayers, and its ineffectiveness, Oklahoma leaders are taking our state in the usual wrong and opposite direction.”
After signing the bill, Fallin reiterated her support of the death penalty for especially brutal murders.

“Oklahoma executes murderers whose crimes are especially heinous,” said Fallin. “I support that policy, and I believe capital punishment must be performed effectively and without cruelty. The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard.”

H.B. 1879, by Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, passed with bipartisan majorities.

It passed 85-10 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and 41-0 in the Oklahoma State Senate.

NOTE: Publisher Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.

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