Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma City – From an editor’s internal reflections and notes on recent events, some reflections.
President Donald Trump’s selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the best decision of his often-troubled presidency.
She is a high-caliber nominee in the tradition of Antonin Scalia, and a person with challenging life experiences which have forged both her character and her approach to legal interpretation.
If she falls short of confirmation, the result will stand as another searing indictment of the collapse of serious discourse in the United States Senate.
If she is confirmed – particularly if the confirmation process unites Republicans and draws Democratic support in the upper chamber of Congress, the path to a better and more intelligent approach to serious issues of policy and procedure will be laid.
Trump has done a lot to erode civility and comity in public life. To be fair, he has operated within the context of the late Ted Kennedy’s dreadful speech shortly after the late, great Robert Bork’s nomination (by the late, great Ronald Reagan) in 1987, and events thereafter.
The Bork battle stands as the most significant domestic policy confrontation of my lifetime. The Barrett nomination is a close second.
After a difficult summer, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is crafting what the new legal counsel says will be a reduced work load. It is both my prayer and my reasoned hope that the work of the P&P Board in the years ahead will lead to commutations or releases for imprisoned persons who are actually innocent or who have served serious time for their underlying offenses.
As I have written previously, the death penalty is constitutional and, in fact, explicitly contemplated in the text of the U.S. Constitution.
However, the practice of executions for capital crimes across the United States is so laced with systemic problems that its use in contemporary circumstances is ill-advised. Even one unjust execution is an indictment of the American system in practice, if not in theory. The significant number of exonerations and subsequent releases from incarceration (including from state death rows) should lead to a careful and methodical retreat from executions as a prelude to a permanent moratorium.
The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission’s (year) report on the actual use of the death penalty documented issues so grave and substantive that a former Oklahoma governor commented there is no doubt some innocent persons have been executed.
For several years, I have highlighted the murder conviction of Julius Jones of Edmond. The police investigation of his case was flawed from the git-go. His original legal counsel was (by the lawyer’s own admission) ineffectual. His family provided a believable alibi. The local prosecutor promised to allow Jones’ capable federal attorneys to examine undisclosed investigatory files – and then reneged on that commitment.
In most cases, finality of judgment is a laudable goal. In law and in procedure, there is no reason to retain the presumption of finality in the face of strong evidence of actual innocence.
The sentence of Julius Jones should be commuted to time served. The governor should consider the case for exoneration. Oklahoma should shift away from the use of capital punishment.
More than ever, now is time to end our state’s use a deeply flawed and dysfunctional Ultimate Sanction.
In 2014, The City Sentinel newspaper endorsed Paula Sophia for state representative in House District 88. Sophia, who no longer resides in Oklahoma, served served in Desert Storm, and is a respected retiree from the Oklahoma City Police department.
The challenging course of Paula’s life had, at the time of the endorsement, been covered in this newspaper and other publications. A crowded field of four candidates sought the job that year. Sophia finished second in the runoff.
In a year where representation was determined in the Democratic runoff, Sophia was narrowly defeated (in a low-turnout election) by Jason Dunnington. Dunnington went on to established a clearly liberal record in the Oklahoma Legislature. He was a serious advocate for liberal policy values who was in most instances able and willing to work with the majority party.
In this year’s primary, The City Sentinel endorsed Dunnington. Dunnington’s defeat was a loss for the district, our city, and the state.
He lost the nomination to Mauree Turner, a self-described Progressive and a community organizer with no experience in public office.
For the first time since 2012, Republicans have a candidate. Unlike Turner, Kelly Barlean has meaningful experience in elective office – including service as vice-chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Washington state Legislature.