Oklahoma House Approves Changes to Death Penalty Law in Murder Cases

The A&M TeamCriminal Defense

Oklahoma lawmakers on March 26, sent Gov. Mary Fallin proposed changes to how state courts can apply the death penalty in first-degree murder cases. Under the proposal from Republican Rep. Scott Biggs, a former county prosecutor, the death penalty would only be an option in first-degree murder cases if it is sought by the state, potentially limiting the number of executions in Oklahoma. If you have been charged with first-degree murder or another serious criminal offense in Oklahoma, contact our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at Atkins & Markoff to discuss your legal options. With our attorneys on your side, you can protect your legal rights and build a strong defense in your criminal case.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION

Under current laws in Oklahoma, judges can consider the death penalty in first-degree murder cases whether or not the state asks for it as a possible punishment. In addition to changing that aspect of the law, the proposed measure would also direct judges to hold post-conviction sentencing hearings in all first-degree murder cases if the prosecutor wishes to illustrate the fact that the suspect has a history of felonies. Such hearings only take place in death penalty cases under the current Oklahoma law. The House voted 82-10 in favor of the legislation, which has already passed the Senate and now awaits only Fallin’s signature to become law.

PROPOSED BILL CALLED UNNECESSARY, UNFAIR

Those in opposition of the proposed bill take issue with the measure’s second provision, which allows the state to reveal the convicted individual’s history of felonies. Under current law, a first-degree murder conviction in non-death penalty cases doesn’t allow courts to look at a defendant’s felony history, because demonstrating the defendant’s criminal history won’t push the penalty beyond life in prison. Although Biggs’ proposal wouldn’t change the punishment in these cases, it would further publicize the suspect’s criminal history, a disclosure that Democratic Rep. Richard Morrissette of Oklahoma City, a defense lawyer, says is unnecessary and unfair.

OUR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS CAN HELP

“The ultimate question here is why, why are we doing this?” Morrissette challenged. “I can tell you from experience, the idea of a fair and impartial trial begins to close up.” If you are facing criminal charges in Oklahoma, for first-degree murder or another major offense, consult our reputable criminal defense attorneys at Atkins & Markoff for legal help. Our law firm is located in Oklahoma City, and our lawyers have years of experience protecting the rights of individuals accused of criminal offenses throughout the state. With the help of our qualified legal team, you may be able to have your charges reduced to a lesser offense, or possibly even dismissed altogether.