Criminal Justice Bill Faces Opposition As It Goes To Committee
Beverly Cantrell - March 2, 2022 10:05 am
Critics are planning to rally Wednesday against what they’re calling the No Second Chances bill.
HB 3903 would prevent inmates sentenced to death, or life in prison, from seeking a reduced sentence.
It is authored by Representative John Pfeiffer (R).
Supporters are saying this bill protects victims’ families, while those against it say sometimes the state gets it wrong and convicted inmates deserve the right to appeal.
In 2021, murder convict Julius Jones was the first death row inmate in state history to be allowed a commutation hearing.
The case got international attention and Gov. Kevin Stitt granted Jones’ clemency just hours before his scheduled execution.
This bill would prevent something like that from happening again because the bill says there may be no claim on innocence,
“The measure provides that an inmate sentenced to death may only be considered for clemency when execution is imminent with an execution date pending and the Board may only consider for the reason of mercy or lenience. The Board may not hear a claim of actual innocence.”
Reverend CeCe Jones was a leader in the Justice For Julius Campaign.
“HB 3903 is a direct effort to silence the truth that we now know; Oklahoma’s criminal justice system sometimes gets it wrong. Trying to prohibit the parole board from hearing cases with claims of innocence is outrageous and not in step with seeking justice,” said Rev. Cece Jones.
The Catholic bishops of Oklahoma said in a statement,
“This amendment only serves to punish the parole board for its recent clemency recommendations and does nothing to continue the state’s focus on prison reform that has been championed by both Republicans and Democrats,” said Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City and Most Rev. David A. Konderla, Bishop of Tulsa.
Numerous other groups have spoken out against the bill, including Conservatives concerned about the death penalty and League of Womens Voters Oklahoma.
On the other hand, Oklahoma Attorney General John Conner supports the proposed legislation, saying that it supports victims’ families, promotes public safety and helps to preserve the role of the courts.
The bill says in part,
“The measure provides that the Pardon and Parole Board is not to recommend to the Governor any person who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or death.”
Protestors say they will be here at the capitol Wednesday morning when the House Judiciary Criminal Committee hears this bill.
To read more about the legislation, click here.