OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- Several faith leaders joined together in solidarity at St. John's Episcopal Church Monday afternoon with a plea Oklahomans have heard before: put a stop to upcoming executions.
"We are here today because we're followers of Jesus who believe that every human life is sacred," said the Christ Community Church Pastor John-Mark Hart.
Hart, along with 25 other faith leaders began working on a petition once Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor and Governor Kevin Stitt released the execution dates for 25 death row inmates.
With 26 initial signatures, an online petition was publicly shared on the internet a few days ago.
The petition outlines a multitude of concerns including the racial inequality in the state's judicial system and the need to implement the Death Penalty Review Commission's 46 recommended reforms from 2017.
"What is the number of innocent people we are willing to kill in order to maintain the practice of capital punishment? We cannot imagine that Jesus would want us to sacrifice even one innocent life to preserve such a system," stated Hart.
In 2017, the Death Penalty Review Commission, an independent and bipartisan group, compiled a comprehensive report that is 300 pages long detailing flaws in the state’s death penalty process while also providing a solution.
46 reform recommendations reports the need for better training, better education and better procedures for police, prosecutors, judges and defense counsel in capital cases, and more.
Eyewitness identification has also come into question.
In a previous statement to KFOR, Attorney General O'Connor told KFOR, "Several of the recommendations within the Report of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission were already being followed when the report was issued. Since then, several recommendations have been implemented and are currently being followed. Further, the method of execution has been litigated and found to be a constitutional method of execution. A moratorium would do nothing more than delay lawful judgments and sentences from being carried out."
A former Oklahoma pastor, Lee Roland said vengeance doesn't belong to the judicial system.
"Vengeance belongs to God," he said.
Attorney General O'Connor has also told News 4, "As long as the death penalty remains a legal and appropriate punishment for the most evil and heinous crimes, this office will continue to enforce the law and make sure that justice is served for the victims of crime and for all Oklahomans."
According to a former Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board member, Adam Luck, 190 death row inmates have been exonerated nationwide since 1976, including 10 in Oklahoma.
"There remains a serious risk that innocent people will be killed by the state," said Hart.
A community volunteer, Susan Esco encourages others to sign the petition to bring awareness to the situation.
"I signed this because I believe that it is our job and it's our purpose. It is our privilege as Christ followers to show people what a good father we have," said Esco. "Sign the letter. Your voice matters."
"Oklahomans overwhelmingly favor capital punishment. In 2016, nearly two-thirds of the electorate voted to amend the state constitution to guarantee the state’s power to impose capital punishment. My office believes in justice for victims and their loved ones, and in capital punishment as appropriate for those who commit the most heinous murders. It is an oft-quoted claim of death penalty opponents that there is no evidence capital punishment deters murder. This is simply not correct, no matter how many times it is repeated. We know it removes one murderer from society. Murders can be arranged from within prisons. Further, these claims often rest on a straight comparison of the murder rate between capital and non-capital states, but such comparisons do not account for the many other factors that affect crime rates. In fact, when these variables are properly controlled, studies establish, as the late United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recognized, that each state execution deters an average of between 14 and 18 murders in that state. Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. 863, 897 (2015) (Scalia, J., concurring). Although I respect the opinions of death penalty opponents, I disagree with their position and believe firmly that capital punishment is proportional as a criminal sanction, effective as a deterrent, and absolutely necessary to achieve justice for the families and loved ones of the victims. My office remains committed to Oklahomans who have waited decades for justice after suffering unthinkable loss and pain. For them, capital punishment is not an abstract debate."Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor
If you're interested in learning more about the Christ and Capital Punishment petition, you can visit their website.
You can also digitally sign your name.