When weighing whether to seek the death penalty, Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond says that he tries to determine how future juries will assess the evidence, as well as how a death penalty case will impact victims’ family members. He observes, “Life without parole without appeals might be a better situation for a lot of victims’ families. There are some positive things about that… . A lot of people, at first blush when a loved one is killed, want the death penalty. (But) going through a death-penalty case is a lot of stress (and can produce) a lot of frustrations with the system.”

During the past year, six Tulsa County murder defendants were eligible for the death penalty, but not one received a death sentence. In four of the cases, the District Attorney’s office agreed to withdraw requests for the death sentence prior to trial, decisions that were made after a careful review of the evidence and in consultation with murder victims’ family members. In the remaining two cases, prosecutors did pursue death sentences, but jurors failed to return a death verdict. In one of these cases, jurors acquitted the defendant, a rare outcome in death penalty trials. Drummond and Tulsa County Chief Public Defender Pete Silva both acknowledged that there are “tough hurdles” for prosecutors to secure a death sentence that will not be overturned at the appellate level.

Defense attorney Kevin Adams added that Tulsa County prosecutors “see the death penalty as a justifiable punishment, but are willing to consider some other result if the defendant is willing to accept responsibility.” He notes that a prosecutor’s decision to not seek the death penalty can save years of court proceedings and “a lot of waiting and a lot of anguish” for victims’ families. Adams notes, “We do a pretty good job of assigning blame in the justice system. We don’t do as good of a job of helping people cope with a loss.”
(Tulsa World, July 30, 2007). See Victims and Life Without Parole.