By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) has announced the election of its 2018-2019 board of directors. Rev. Don Heath was re-elected as the organization’s board chair after serving in that office for one year, and as vice chair for two years prior.
Heath has served as pastor of Edmond Trinity Christian Church since 2007. He received his Master of Divinity degree with high honors (summa cum laude) from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. He represents the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma for the coalition.
Heath is also an attorney, practicing law with the firm of Hirsch, Heath & White, PLLC in Oklahoma City. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1982.
According to Heath, Oklahoma’s method of capital punishment is about to enter a new era. “Nitrogen hypoxia…has never been used as a means of execution for a human, and now Oklahoma has adopted it as the preferred mode of execution,” Heath said. “We hope that the courts refuse to allow humans to be used as guinea pigs.
Like other states, Oklahoma has found that the drugs needed to carry out executions by lethal injection are hard to get and often extremely expensive.
Last March, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh announced that Oklahoma would be developing a new execution protocol using nitrogen hypoxia or inert gas inhalation (IGI). Once the state has finalized the procedure, they’ve agreed to wait five months to give inmates and their attorneys time to make legal challenges in the courts. Until then, executions will remain on hold.
“The Coalition will continue to emphasize the humanity of the people on death row,” Heath continued. “We want to take a larger part in clemency hearings and in improving living conditions in prison. We hope to expand our coalition to include more African-American churches, young people, evangelicals and any other people of good will who want to build a non-violent Oklahoma.”
Re-elected as OK-CADP’s vice chair is Dr. Elizabeth Overman, a Political Science professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Overman teaches public policy, nonprofit management and program evaluation, and minority policy and politics, among other courses, in the Master of Public Administration program at UCO.
Other officers for the 2018-2019 term include re-elected board secretary, Victor Gorin, a longtime equal rights activist and member of the Brennan Society and Amnesty International’s Oklahoma City chapter.
Margie Roetker, representing the Peace and Justice Committee of Oklahoma City’s St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, was elected as board treasurer. Mary E. Sine, an educator at Oklahoma City Public Schools, who has served as the group’s treasurer for six years will now act as co-treasurer.
At the coalition’s recent Annual Awards Dinner, held at Oklahoma City University, seven at-large board members were elected: Margaret Cox, Leslie Fitzhugh, Connie Johnson, Dr. Overman, Rev. Theodis Manning, Dr. Gilbert Parks, and James Rowan.
Fitzhugh, representing the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Oklahoma Chapter, was appointed to serve on the executive committee.
“The executive committee will benefit from Dr. Overman’s research into lynching in Oklahoma, Victor Gorin’s passion for criminal justice, Leslie Fitzhugh’s experience in the corrections department, and Margie Roetker and Mary Sine’s concern for communicating with the members of our Coalition,” Heath said.
Based in Oklahoma City, OK-CADP is a grassroots membership organization that engages in outreach, education through its Speakers Bureau, and advocacy aimed at raising awareness of issues related to abolishing the death penalty. For more information, visit okcadp.org.