The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, a bipartisan commission of legal experts, along with community leaders and advocates, was convened in 2016 to comprehensively examine Oklahoma’s death penalty system. The commission recently concluded its investigation with the release of a report recommending that Oklahoma extend its moratorium on executions.
Oklahoma’s Attorney General first imposed the moratorium in 2015 in order to investigate breaches in the state’s execution protocol that led to Charles Warner being administered the wrong execution drug. The mistake may have caused Warren to die in excruciating pain. His last words were “my body is on fire.”
Among the reasons the Commission gave for its recommendation was the abuse of prosecutorial discretion, which led to massive disparities in death sentences between counties. Bob Macy, who was Oklahoma County’s elected District Attorney for 21 years, not only sought and obtained more death sentences than any other Oklahoman prosecutor, he put more people on death row than any district attorney in the United States.
The commission also noted pervasive prosecutorial misconduct. Macy was a central focus in this regard, as well. Of the 54 cases in which Macy sought and obtained the death penalty, courts found misconduct in a full third of them. Three individuals Macy had sentenced to death were ultimately exonerated.
In conducting its review, the Commission cited the Fair Punishment Project’s report, “America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors: How Overzealous Personalities Drive The Death Penalty.” This report tells the story of of “Cowboy” Bob Macy, as well as four other prosecutors whose indiscriminate use of the death penalty put them far out of line with their district attorney peers, and served to further delegitimize America’s system of capital punishment.