Oklahoma AG Faces Pushback Over Execution Rate

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and Department of Corrections Director Steven Harpe want to extend the time between state executions from 60 to 90 days to alleviate the emotional burden on staff and reduce botch risks. Still, Judge Gary Lumpkin callously dismissed their worries.

Proposing an Extension

Gentner Drummond, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, and Steven Harpe, the Director of the Department of Corrections, recently proposed extending the interval between state executions from 60 to 90 days.

Drummond and Harpe felt it was necessary to make this proposal in order to mitigate the emotional burden among the correctional staff and minimize the chance of future executions being botched as a result. The push for a change in the execution schedule came after a series of challenging executions and operational difficulties from the Department of Corrections (ODOC).

Despite these challenges, Oklahoma has a relatively fast and aggressive execution schedule as it hopes to reduce the number of death row inmates from 43 to 28, by executing 25 inmates over the next three years.

In response to this request for more time between executions, Judge Gary Lumpkin of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has stirred up controversy by telling the corrections staff to “suck it up” 

Step Aside

Judge Lumpkin said, “I’m sorry, but I come from the Marine Corps, and when we have tough duties, we just say, ‘man up.’ If you can’t do the job, you step aside and let somebody do it that can.”

Judge Lumpkin has since seen a great deal of pushback against his comments for disregarding the well-being of state employees and dismissing the trauma associated with working and participating in criminal executions.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals initially approved the previous execution plan but then held a hearing to consider the revised schedule proposed by Drummond and Harpe.

Frustration and Criticism

During the hearing, Judge Lumpkin expressed his frustration with the state’s hesitation to follow through on the original execution schedule and criticized the request for longer intervals between executions.

It is worth mentioning that research studies conducted around criminal executions have been conducted and documented the severe and lasting trauma experienced by individuals involved in the execution process. 

The findings of the study suggest that there is, in fact, a great deal of emotional trauma when conducting and participating in criminal executions, so the idea that these officers can simply “man up” may be an unrealistic expectation.

As Oklahoma Attorney General, Drummond highlighted his own personal concerns after overseeing failed executions and emphasized the emotional toll on himself and the correction staff.

The Only Time in History

Drummond said, “I’m not aware of any time in our history that an attorney general has appeared before this board and argued for clemency.” Highlighting his own personal struggles with the executions Drummond said, “I am present with every execution. I look the defendant in the eye as he dies.”

The new proposed schedule is an attempt to reduce the operational impact on the ODOC after facing significant disruptions due to the extensive preparations and drills required for each execution. Members of the ODOC have called the current schedule “unsustainable” because of the logistics of prison operations and the strain placed on the staff’s mental health.

The executive director of the Department of Corrections, Steven Harpe, said, “The current pace of executions is unsustainable in the long run, as it is unduly burdening the DOC and its personnel.”

Minimising Disruptions

Harpe then went on to say, “Adjusting the execution schedule will allow ODOC to carry out the court-ordered warrants within a timeframe that will minimize the disruptions to normal operations.”

Then Harpe concluded, “This pace also protects our team’s mental health and allows time for them to process and recover between the scheduled executions.”

The post Oklahoma AG Faces Pushback Over Execution Rate first appeared on Swift Feed.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Natalia Bratslavsky.

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