Legislative Activity - Oklahoma

  • South Carolina and Oklahoma Governors Sign Bills Expanding Death Penalty South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry have signed into law legislation that allows proseuctors to seek the death penalty for repeat child molesters. The new South Carolina law allows a death sentence if the accused has been twice convicted of raping a child younger than 11-years-old. It also sets a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for some sex offenders, mandates that people convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree wear an electronic monitoring device, and requires registered sex offenders to update their address every six months. The Oklahoma measure makes the death penalty an option for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent conviction for rape, sodomy, or lewd molestation involving a child under 14. Oklahoma, South Carolina, Montana, Louisiana, and Florida are the only states to allow the death penalty for certain sex crimes. No one convicted of a sex offense has been executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the capital punishment 30 years ago. David Bruck, a law professor at Washington and Lee University, said the measures might actually put child rape victims' lives at risk. He notes, "The last message you want to give an offender who has the life of a child in his hands is you might as well kill the child because he'd already got the death penalty. This is a very stupid message." (Associated Press, June 8, 2006 and June 9, 2006). See Recent Legislative Activity. The constitutionality of the law is not clear because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty for rape of an adult is barred by the Eighth Amendment. (Coker v. Georgia (1977)).
  • Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating vetoed legislation authored to ban the execution of those who have mental retardation. The bill, which was sent to the Governor in late May, passed with bipartisan support in the State House and Senate. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering Atkins v. Virginia, No. 00-8452, which will determine whether executing those with mental retardation violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. On June 20, the Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the ban on cruel unusual punishment to execute death row inmates who have mental retardation. (The Oklahoman, May 26, 2002)