July 6, 2022

States and the federal government carried out 11 executions in 2021, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma could come close to matching that in 12 months under an ambitious execution schedule set Friday by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Attorney General John O’Connor requested the dates on June 10, days after a federal judge affirmed the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s execution protocol.

Beginning Aug. 25, the state plans to conduct an execution by lethal injection approximately once every four weeks through 2024. There are five executions scheduled for 2022 and 10 each in 2023 and 2024.

In the June 10 request, O’Connor wrote that he consulted with the Department of Corrections and Pardon and Parole Board and all parties agreed the schedule was doable. The Pardon and Parole Board plans to hold a clemency hearing monthly at the start of its regular meeting.

Unlike some Republican-led states, including Utah and Ohio, Oklahoma has not considered legislation to abolish the death penalty. The outcome of one high-profile case could change that.

Death row prisoner Richard Glossip, who claims innocence in the 1997 murder of Oklahoma City motel manager Barry Van Treese, is set to be executed on Sept. 22. A bipartisan group of 34 state lawmakers signed a letter in June 2021 requesting an external examination of Glossip’s case.

State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, said during a June 15 press conference that he will “fight to abolish the death penalty” in Oklahoma if Glossip is executed because “the process isn’t pure.”

As always, I’ll be keeping a close eye on policy developments in the Legislature.

Oklahoma Watch News

I’m excited to share some professional news that’s been developing in recent weeks.

Starting on Monday, I’ll start begin covering democracy for Oklahoma Watch. I plan to focus on issues related to political influence, voting rights and access to democracy. I have lots to learn, but I’m looking forward to a fresh challenge.

Ashlynd Huffman, a 2019 graduate of East Central University who previously worked at the Stillwater News-Press, is joining Oklahoma Watch as a criminal justice reporter. She’s done some fantastic work in Stillwater over the past two and a half years and I’m excited to work alongside her. You can reach out to Ashlynd on Twitter or email her at ahuffman@oklahomawatch.org. 

To everyone that’s served as a source, offered story tips or simply read my work—thank you! I’ve immensely enjoyed these past two years covering criminal justice issues and the state prison system.

Have input on what stories I should tackle or democracy-related issues I should look into? Email me at kross@Oklahomawatch.org or DM me on Twitter.

What I’m Reading

  • David Hammer, Recently Elected DA for Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties, Dies Sunday: Hammer, 47, died of a heart attack on July 3. He pledged during his campaign to make trust and transparency the hallmarks of his office. [The Oklahoman]
  • Supreme Court Restores Oklahoma Authority Over Crimes on Reservations: In a 5-4 decision, the court said Oklahoma shares jurisdiction with the federal government for crimes committed on reservations by non-Native Americans against Native victims. Legal experts worry the decision could erode tribal sovereignty. [NBC News]
  • Oklahoma Inmate Takes Settlement After Claiming He Was Forced to Eat Nonkosher Food: Jewish state prisoner Thomas Greer claimed in the lawsuit he was unfairly taken off a kosher meal program; The Department of Corrections settled the lawsuit and Greer was awarded $28,000. [KOCO]

Help Us Make a Difference

From the impact of COVID-19 behind bars to the effects of prison gerrymandering, my reporting focuses on how Oklahoma’s criminal justice system impacts people inside and outside of the system. It can take weeks or months for me to file public records requests, dig into documents and track down sources. As a nonprofit news organization, we rely on your financial support to do this time-consuming but important work. Help us make a difference.

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