State Senator Seeks to Repeal Death Penalty
By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A state senator is taking steps to repeal the death penalty in Oklahoma. Senator Connie Johnson says this is the right time both economically and ethically.
The move has at least one crime victim very upset. The daughter of a couple that was killed in a violent attack six years ago is angry over the prospect of the death penalty being repealed in Oklahoma.
Debra Cantrell Wyatt hasn't always been a death penalty supporter.
"There was something in my head that said 'I just don't know if I could agree with this', and overnight the way I felt about it changed because of what happened," Wyatt said.
What happened was a brutal attack back in 2003 that robbed Debra of her parents. A.J. Cantrell and his wife Pasty were killed by 46-year-old Scott Eizember. After a 37-day manhunt, Eizember was put on trial and sentenced to death. Now there a push to abolish the death penalty in Oklahoma as part of a prison reform effort.
"When she talks about wanting to make some reform in the justice system there is some reform that needs to be made, mostly for the victims," Wyatt said.
State Senator Constance Johnson is hosting a symposium on that issue this week.
"Through a critical examination of the issue we want to see if these dollars would be better spent making our system of justice more effective and efficient," State Sen. Constance Johnson (D) said.
Senator Johnson says there's not an immediate effort to phase out the death penalty in Oklahoma. She's hoping that will happen within four years. For now she wants to raise awareness of the issue among the public and legislators.
"Many new legislators do not have the insight, background or awareness of the history of the death penalty in Oklahoma," Sen. Johnson said.
Wyatt is launching a coalition of her own to make sure that doesn't happen and that Eizember's sentence is not commuted.
"It's just, it's what he was given and it's just a punishment for what he did," Wyatt said.
Wyatt has already received quite a bit of support for her efforts to keep the death penalty in place.
Republican Senate Majority leader Todd Lamb says the death penalty is a real deterrent to Capitol crimes in Oklahoma and that as long as Republicans control the legislature, "Wild ideas like repealing the death penalty will not become law."