Execution rate levels off in Oklahoma

Thursday, December 2nd 2004, 6:19 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Only six convicted murderers have received lethal injections this year, less than half of the 2003 total and a third of the record amount three years ago.

``We are obviously over the period of time when we did not keep pace with convictions and sentences,'' state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Wednesday.

The state and federal reforms of 1995 and 1996 are speeding up the appeals process, and thus shortening the time inmates spend on death row, Edmondson said.

The changes in the law contributed in 2001 to Oklahoma leading the nation with 18 executions. Two years later, the state had 14 executions.

``It's just a matter of where the cases are in the system and how they mount up for a while,'' Edmondson said, referring to why there were so many executions in 2001.

``What we should have, if everything is working properly, is the same number of executions as you would have coming to death row, less reversals.

``I would say that executions have leveled off. I don't think we will see a year with 18 or 14 again,'' he said.

Oklahoma now has 87 people on death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Of that number, 53 are going through the appeals process in the federal courts, 33 are in the early stages of appeal in the state courts and one man has been decreed incompetent, meaning his execution has been delayed indefinitely.

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