Capital Punishment in Oklahoma

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Capital Punishment in Oklahoma is permitted under sate law. Oklahoma has not enforced the death penalty since 2015. Charles Frederick Warner was the last man executed using the death penalty in our state. He was injected with a lethal dose of midazolam. Despite having 2 botched executions in the past decade that stirred controversy, Oklahoma plans to resume capital punishment through the use of legal injections. Our criminal defense attorneys in Tulsa can help you if you’ve got questions pertaining to the death penalty or any other legal questions or concerns.

Methods of Oklahoma Capital Punishment

Capital punishment can be carried out various ways but the main method in Oklahoma is by a lethal injection of drugs. However, if that method is found to be unconstitutional by a higher court, then there are other options available. For instance, Oklahoma statute 22 § 1014 says the following:

  1. The death penalty shall be carried out by the administration of a lethal quantity of a drug or drugs until death is pronounced by a licensed physician according to accepted standards of medical practice.
  2. If the execution of the sentence of death as provided in subsection 1 of this section is held unconstitutional by an appellate court of competent jurisdiction or is otherwise unavailable, then the sentence of death shall be carried out by nitrogen hypoxia.
  3. Electrocution shall be carried out as the sentence of death if nitrogen hypoxia is held unconstitutional or is otherwise unavailable
  4. If the death by electrocution is held unconstitutional or is otherwise unavailable, then the sentence of death shall be carried out by firing squad.

Carrying Out The Execution

A judgment of death will be executed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma. The judgment of execution shall take place under the authority of the Director of the Department of Corrections. The warden must be present along with other necessary corrections officials to carry out the execution. Additionally, the warden must invite or permit the following parties to witness the execution: 

  • physician of the county in which the crime occurred
  • district attorney of the county in which the crime occurred
  • the judge who presided at the trial issuing the sentence of death
  • the chief of police of the municipality in which the crime occurred
  •  lead law enforcement officials of any state, county or local law enforcement agency who investigated the crime or testified in any court proceeding related to the crime
  • Cabinet Secretary of Safety and Security as well as any other personnel or correctional personnel deemed appropriate and approved by the Director.
  • two ministers chosen by the defendant
  • any persons, relatives or friends, not to exceed five, as the defendant may name,

Reporters from the news media will be admitted upon proper identification, application and approval of the warden. The identity of all persons who participate in or administer the execution process and persons who supply the drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment for the execution shall be confidential.

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Family Members Attend The Execution

Immediate family members are allowed to witness the execution from an area seperate from non-family members. However, if there are multiple deceased victims, the Department shall not be required to provide separate areas for each family of each deceased victim. If facilities are not capable or sufficient to provide all immediate family members with a direct view of the execution, the Department of Corrections may broadcast the execution by means of a closed circuit television system to an area in which other immediate family members may be located.

Victims as Witnesses

Any surviving victim of the defendant who is eighteen (18) years of age or older may view the execution by closed circuit television with the approval of both the Director of the Department of Corrections and the warden. The Director and warden shall prioritize persons to view the execution, including immediate family members, surviving victims, and supporting persons, and may set a limit on the number of viewers within occupancy limits. Furthermore, any surviving victim may have an accompanying support person. “Surviving victim” means any person who suffered serious harm or injury due to the criminal acts of the defendant.

Suspended Sentence For Insanity

A death sentence will be suspended if the defendant is insane or pregnant. If there is good reason to believe that a defendant under judgment of death has become insane, the warden must call such fact to the attention of the district attorney of the county in which the prison is situated. The district attorney must immediately file a petition stating that the defendant is believed to be insane. Then the court must at once cause to be summoned and impaneled from the regular jury list a jury of twelve persons to hear such inquiry.

Pregnancy Will Stay The Death Penalty

If a female prisoner may be pregnant, the warden must notify the district attorney of the prison’s county. The district attorney is to immediately file with the district court a petition stating such allegation. A hearing must be conducted by a judge of that district court to determine if the allegation is valid. A medical examination must be conducted within thirty (30) days before the hearing. The report of the examining physician shall be submitted to the court as evidence. The court may hear any other evidence that might be presented. Furthermore, the court will make a written finding as a part of the permanent record.

Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys

Nationally death penalty laws are very different from state to state. Not only are the crimes that impose the death penalty different but so to are the means in which the sentence is carried out. To add even more variation to the mix its important to understand that the Federal government also imposes capitol punishment and its also different from the States themselves.

With the recent move towards a more just criminal justice systems even more difference between jurisdictions has emerged. Criminal defense reform not only looks at the day to day implementation of sentencing but has also taken on criminal punishment at the capitol punishment level. The movement looks not only to the crimes that use the death penalty as punishment but also the racial and economic groups that are impacted most by its implementation. If you’ve got questions or concerns related to criminal defense law in Oklahoma contact our Tulsa lawyers for a free and confidential consultation. (918) 743.2233 or click here to ask a legal question

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