Death penalty remains in use and popular in Oklahoma — for now

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: March 25, 2013

One report puts support here at 90 percent, which seems a stretch but which nevertheless shows support for a position that crosses party, gender and racial lines. There is no shame in this intensity of support. Capital punishment is constitutional from shore to shore and will remain so until the U.S. Supreme Court says otherwise.

Will that happen? Probably. The high court has gradually narrowed the focus of capital punishment by excluding defendants such as the young and the mentally infirm as well as the crimes subject to the ultimate punishment. One or two Supreme Court appointments could change the debate just as happened with abortion. In that case, what was illegal became constitutionally protected. In the case of capital punishment, what is legal could become constitutionally proscribed.

All the usual arguments about the death penalty — its supposed cruelty, its expense, the possibility of putting to death an innocent person — have failed to move the needle here because Oklahomans have long considered that the perpetrators of savage killings deserve to die. Indeed they do.

Yet lawmakers in two neighboring states (Kansas and Colorado) are debating an official repeal of death penalty statutes that aren't actually being used. While Kansas stopped executing killers nearly 50 years ago, Colorado has had only one execution since 1976. Even in states where executions continue, official support is waning; governors are taking people off death row with clemency orders.

We're No. 3.

A new law here and there could make us No. 1. Perhaps the rule of singularity is the only thing that will break this state's unabashed support for capital punishment.

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