OK Panel Urges Dozens of Fixes in Death Penalty System

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A bipartisan private commission is calling for a court-ordered stay on executions in Oklahoma to remain in effect until “significant reforms” are accomplished, citing concerns about resources available to those facing death sentences and the faulty application of execution procedures, the Tulsa World reports. The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission released its findings yesterday, with four dozen recommendations in a 300-page report on a study of capital cases from initial contact with police to the day defendants are put to death. Former Gov. Brad Henry, a leader of the effort, said the panel unanimously recommended that the moratorium be extended because of serious flaws in the way Oklahoma handles death-penalty cases. He said the ten death-row exonerees from Oklahoma were among his biggest worries, along with the discovery of the limitations capital defendants have when presenting legal defenses.

Organizations of defense lawyers don’t have enough attorneys. They don’t have the funding that they need, especially in death-penalty cases, to hire investigators (or) to hire experts. You have to decide whether you want to pay to do it right, and either you do or you don’t,” Henry said. Oklahoma has put more than 100 people to death in the modern era of capital punishment. Commission member Robert Alexander said it’s almost certain that at least one of them was innocent and couldn’t prove it because of financial reasons “What we all agreed on was that if you’re going to have the death penalty, it ought to be done right,” Henry said. “It ought to be done in a way that, as best we can, ensures no innocent person is ever put to death by the state of Oklahoma.”

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