A new report shows how racial history affects the death penalty in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A brand new report delves into the history of the death penalty in Oklahoma.

The report notes that while “systemic issues” in the state’s use of the death penalty affect all defendants, the impact is skewed based on the race of the defendant and the victim.

Experts say the data looks different based on the race of the accused and the victim, while the effect is particularly strong for the accused’s skin color.

“Oklahoma County and Tulsa County are actually fourth and sixth in the nation in terms of executions,” said Ngozi Ndule, deputy director of Death Penalty Information Centeralso adding that the state is second only to Texas in the number of total executions in the state.

At the same time, while Oklahoma’s black population makes up just over 40% of the current death row population, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, recent US Census data shows they make up only about 7% of the state’s total population.

The full report, “Deeply Rooted: How Racial History Informs Oklahoma’s Death Penalty,” is available here.

“There is a history and a legacy of racial violence, lynching, Jim Crow segregation; the stakes here are serious,” Ndule added, noting the demographics of inmates who are usually on death row.

“To move toward true justice, Oklahoma must reckon with the damage already done by a criminal justice system in which race can determine who lives or dies,” said Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, founder and executive director of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, in a statement related to the release of the report.

“To understand this history, we must recognize the generational trauma inflicted on many in black communities, those who have been victims of racial violence, those who have lost family members to homicide without compensation, and those who have had to stand by as the legal system takes their lives.” of their loved ones.”

The report notes that death sentences and executions are on the decline nationally, and the trend is on the rise Oklahoma, while the state is progressing with 25 planned executions; the second is happening later this month.

Otherwise, Oklahoma executed a total of 197 men and three women between 1915 and 2022. Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Justice and Justice Attorneys for Julius director Cece Jones-Davis said the available data clearly shows racial disparities in executions.

“This report really shows that there is an issue of racial disparities in the death penalty in Oklahoma,” she said in an interview with KFOR.

“If I’m not mistaken, the report says that the first recorded execution was in 1841, but that the first white person was not executed until 1899. This means that African Americans and Native Americans have suffered from this disparity for years and years, literally decades, before any who else,” she continued.

“I think we have to look back at the history of what the death penalty was like in Oklahoma to understand where we are now.”

Jones-Davis said the path to a more humane and just system begins with acknowledging how the past affects the present.

“Statistics show that studies prove not only in Oklahoma, but across this country that blacks, especially black men, are many times more likely to be sentenced to death for a similar crime than white defendants; I think we just have to catch up with the stats and be honest and real about where we are,” Jones-Davis said.

“Race plays a role and we’ve always known that. We want more people to understand that,” she added.

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