Local & Regional
7:15 am
Sun September 16, 2012

US Judge's Opinion Sparks Debate of Oklahoma Practice

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court judge's rebuke in an Oklahoma death penalty case has sparked renewed debate over the constitutionality of a common practice in state courts — allowing murder victims' relatives to recommend to jurors whether the death penalty should be imposed.

Veteran Oklahoma prosecutors defend the practice. They say jurors who must decide whether a defendant in a first-degree murder case is sentenced to die should have all of the evidence and testimony they can.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the death sentences of a man convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of a wealthy LeFlore County couple. But a dissenting opinion by Judge Carlos Lucero complains of repeated violations of defendants' constitutional rights in state death-penalty trials.