In 1976, Sen. Darryl Roberts, D-Ardmore, prosecuted a man for
damaging a prison commode. He received a five-year sentence. The
same day a jury found four Ardmore high school students guilty of
murdering a high school classmate by shooting him in the chest. They
received only four-year sentences.
For Roberts this is just one instance which illustrates the
immedate need to revamp Oklahoma's criminal code with uniform
sentencing guidelines for felony offenses and embezzlement as
embodied in Senate Bill 132.
Although the bill did not pass the Senate Criminal Jurisprudence
Committee during this session of the Oklahoma Legislature, Roberts
hopes to take action on it next session.
"I didn't expect it to pass this session, but filed it so it
could be a focal point to attract attention," he said. Roberts
introduced the bill in 1987.
"We need simplicity, uniformity and clarity for citizens and
those who must prosecute," he said.
In pouring over Oklahoma's criminal code, Roberts discovered
that embezzlement from the state embalmer's office carries a maximum
sentence of 50 years compared to a maximum of 20 years for child
"Back in the 1930s when the legislation was passed, 50 years was
the largest sentence other than life," he said.
The criminal code's "willy nilly" lack of uniformity stems from
the uneven development of law since it was established in 1910,
"Agricultural crimes such as bribery, the movement of livestock,
and falsifying meat inspection reports are now taken care of with
rules and regulations in the Agriculture Department," he said.
In creating uniform sentencing, the law should evaluate like
punishment for like crimes, he said.
"When looking at the prison population you can find someone from
the Panhandle in jail for 50 years while someone from southeastern
Oklahoma stays only three years for the same crime and the same
circumstance," he said.
Increasing penalties is not the solution, he said.
"The district attorney has gotten more convictions since the
minimum sentence for rape was reduced," he said. The minimum
sentence is now five years, compared to 15 years in the 1970s, he
Ninety-nine-year sentences are one of the biggest sources of
frustration for Oklahomans, Roberts said. "We need to provide for
more certainty," he said.
"For punishment to be effective, it must be swift, certain and