Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Author of Legal Injection Bill Now Has Second Thoughts

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Author of Legal Injection Bill Now Has Second Thoughts

Article excerpt

As former state Rep. Bill Wiseman remembers it, the idea of lethal injections was dreamed up because he had a guilty conscience for not voting against a new death penalty law.

But Wiseman, a longtime death penalty opponent, said his guilt has not been eased since the Oklahoma Legislature passed the nation's first lethal injection law in 1977.

The former Tulsa lawmaker, now an administrator at the University of Central Oklahoma, has had second thoughts many times over the years as he watched the proliferation of executions.

Oklahoma has established itself as the nation's per capita leader in carrying out society's ultimate penalty. Last week, the state executed its 15th person of 2001, the most ever in one year.

That's not what Wiseman had in mind when he sat down with former state Medical Examiner Jay Chapman to write language that, in effect, led to a reinvention of capital punishment.

"It's the old law of unintended consequences," Wiseman said, remembering a friendly warning from a reporter many years ago that more executions would occur if "granny didn't have to be squeamish about the electric chair."

He is convinced squeamish juries would have spared many from execution over the years, if not for the existence of a method more palatable than electrocution.

Since 1977, lethal injection has been adopted in most states, by the federal government and by many countries around the world.

A quarter of a century ago, Wiseman said he sacrificed his personal beliefs for political expediency when he voted for a new death penalty law. "I wish I had had the guts to stand up and vote against it, but I didn't," he said, recalling he was coming up for re-election at the time.

He said he found a way to assuage his conscience through his lethal injection plan.

"What's so troubling about it," Wiseman said, is his realization that on the one hand capital punishment is now more humane, but is being practiced more than ever. …

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