By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Southern Nazarene University student Mady Martin spent her final senior semester creating a project called, “10 Reasons Oklahoma Should Abolish the Death Penalty.”.
A 21 year old business and behavioral science major, Martin was working on her senior project for the honors program when she contacted the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
“During my junior year, my work required that I gain design experience,” Martin said. “For my senior project I chose to combine my hobby with my passion for social justice issues.”
While taking a class through the Oklahoma Scholar-Leadership Enrichment Program (OSLEP) called “Firing Up the Social Justice Imagination”, Martin says she learned about the inconsistencies of the death penalty and the harm it does.
OSLEP is an intercollegiate program designed to develop the scholarship and leadership abilities of Oklahoma’s outstanding college and university students. The program is sponsored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and administered by the University of Oklahoma.
“It was during this time that I heard Sister Helen Prejean speak at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) on the death penalty and also learned of OK-CADP.
During the UCO event, “Engaging and Informing Citizens about the Death Penalty in the U.S,” students said they concluded the death penalty is a moral issue and that, as a civilized country, America should stop killing people to show that killing is wrong.
Sister Helen urged the students to get more involved. “Sign a petition or begin to speak out,” Prejean said. “With the spotlight ever shining on Oklahoma, now is the time to do just that.”
Martin’s senior project outlines different arguments against capital punishment featuring ten Oklahoma death row inmates, including Richard Glossip, whose execution has been stayed three times.
“While this might be controversial, I believe in putting a face to an issue. I can argue the death penalty all day, but these are the people actually affected by it,” Martin said.
During the class, Martin began researching stories of individual inmates living on Oklahoma’s death row.
“I learned that some people are there for the wrong reasons – innocence, mental disability and poverty – and for some, the crime was really horrendous,” Martin said. “I learned that wanting to abolish the death penalty is about extending grace, love, and mercy, to show that no matter how horrendous the crime, revenge through death should never be the answer. Society should be teaching by example, not participating in the same acts they forbid.”
After contacting OK-CADP, Martin decided to include the organization’s website on each poster she created. Martin was invited to display the finished project at the group’s annual dinner held on May 4.
The Oklahoma inmates depicted in Martin’s work are Richard Glossip, Raymond Johnson, James Pavatt, John Grant, Ronson Bush, Patrick Murphy, Marion Harmon, Alfred Mitchell, Nicholas Davis, and Bigler Stouffer III.
The ten reasons Martin gives to abolish the death penalty are:
1 – Innocent Lives are at Risk – 156 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973.
2 – This is Not the Only Option – According to Sooner Poll survey, more than half of Oklahomans are in support of the abolition of the death penalty when life in prison without the possibility of parole is an option.
3 – Abolition will Save the State Money – It costs the taxpayers $2 – $5 million per death for all of the extra trials and appeals in death penalty cases. Also, maintaining death row inmates costs taxpayers approximately $900,000 more each year than a prisoner in the general population.
4 – It Does Not Deter Crime – The 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that
the South had the highest murder rate, accounting for over 80 percent of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1 percent of all executions, had lowest murder rate.
5 – Does Not Help the Victim’s Family – The death penalty only prolongs the pain for victim’s families by dragging out the legal process, often causing more suffering.
6 – Mentally Ill Inmates are Executed – In 2989 the US Supreme Court said “mental retardation” should be a mitigating factor to be considered by the jury during sentencing, however many mentally disturbed inmates are often declared sane.
7 – Not Equal / Racism Exists – Minorities are more likely to be convicted than whites defendants for the same crime.
8 – Financial disparity – Over 99 percent of people on death row are indigent.
9 – US is the Only Industrial Western Nation to still have the death penalty.
10 – When the State Kills, We Kill – As taxpayers, we are the State.
“I think my persuasive points are in my project – there are many reasons against the death penalty, not just one, and people might connect with one over the other,” Martin added.
“Financially, the death penalty does not make sense. Ethically, it is not fair whatsoever, the innocent and mentally handicap are executed. It does nothing to deter people from killing. In the end, if society is trying to say that it is just to kill another only to prove that killing is wrong or to get revenge, then there is definitely a backwards thought there,” Martin said.
“Our advanced society should be above getting revenge on another person,” she continued. “As the end of “Dead Man Walking” it is said, ‘Killing is wrong, no matter who does it.’
“We are the state. When the state kills, we are also participants in that,” Martin stated. “Do you want that responsibility on your shoulders? I sure don’t.”