Poll: More than Half of Oklahomans Favor Life Sentences over Death Penalty08-Aug-2016
Recently, the Oklahoman published the results of a poll that indicates the majority of people in Oklahoma would support abolishing the death penalty in favor of life sentences. What is interesting about the results is that many of those who say they would be willing to replace capital punishment with sentences of life in prison are people who actually say they support the death penalty. In other words, even death penalty proponents seem to think that a life sentence would be more appropriate than death.
While the results seem to be ironic, they are not actually that surprising given the fiasco that has been the death penalty in Oklahoma over the last few years. We have the death penalty lawsuits which pitted the state's two high courts against each other.
We have the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, whose execution was called off mid-process when a vein collapsed and the lethal injection drugs were not administered properly; Lockett died nearly 45 minutes later.
And most recently, we have the eleventh-hour halt to the execution of Richard Glossip, after the state discovered that one of the drugs it had received to use in the execution was the wrong drug; apparently, it had been used anyway in the execution of Charles Warner.
In light of these events, the state has agreed to delay all executions "until we have complete confidence in the system," according to Governor Mary Fallin.
However, confidence in the system is more than wavering and may be difficult to restore. According to the poll conducted by SoonerPoll, of the nearly 400 "likely voters" surveyed, nearly 75 percent identified as supporters of the death penalty; of these "supporters," however, more than half--53 percent--said they would support a plan to replace the death penalty with life sentences without parole, forfeiture of all property, and mandatory restitution to the families of the victims.
Some of the respondents who said they supported the death penalty still felt uncomfortable "playing God" to determine who lives and who dies.
According to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, these results--which seem to be trending nationwide--show that "support" for the death penalty is weaker than it appears at first glance. People who "support" the death penalty typically do so because they do not believe other alternatives are available. However, Dunham says, "When other alternatives are offered, those alternatives are much more acceptable to the public than the death penalty."
Obviously, 398 people is a relatively small sample for the poll, but these results are mirrored in similar polls across the nation, and although those who identify as liberal show slightly higher support for replacing the death penalty, rates were still high among those who identify as conservative.
What are your thoughts? Is it possible for Oklahoma to restore the death penalty in such a way that citizens are confident of the state's ability to mete the punishment the "right" way? Or is it time to retire the death penalty once and for all?
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