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State Question 776: Oklahoma voters reaffirmed their support of capital punishment
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State Question 776: Oklahoma voters reaffirmed their support of capital punishment

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Oklahoma voters reaffirmed their support of capital punishment Tuesday with the passage of State Question 776, which adds a section to the state constitution saying the all death penalty statutes are in effect.

The ballot measure gives the state the option of changing the method of execution if a method becomes invalid. It states that capital punishment is not a cruel and unusual punishment.

State Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, one of the co-authors of the question, told the Oklahoman in October that he thought the question takes the debate away from whether the state should have capital punishment and focuses legislative attention on how to do it "in the most humane way possible."

Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said that Oklahomans had spoken in clear favor of the death penalty and that the passage protects victims by not having appeals dragged through the courts over and over again after the appeals had gone through.

He said passage ensures that people will be executed after they've gone through appeals process. 

An opposition group, the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said they were disappointed.

"State Question 776 represented the legislature’s veiled attempt to control the courts, and is a blatant violation of the balance of power and the system of checks and balances between the three branches of government," said OK-CADP Chair Connie Johnson. "The Legislature has once again used an emotionally charged issue to manipulate policy and to deceive voters.”

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma also opposed the measure and said on its website that: "Because the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution would supersede this new provision in the Oklahoma Constitution, its true effect would be to undermine the authority of the Oklahoma’s judiciary and force legal challenges to the death penalty to be filed in Federal Courts."

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