OKLAHOMA CITY -Even though he proposed budget increases for the Attorney General's office and the Indigent Defense system in his executive budget, Governor Keating has vetoed those appropriations, an action that will further slow the death penalty process, according to a Senate budget leader.
"In effect, Governor Keating has given our death row inmates a new lease on life. That's the simplest way to explain the impact of his vetoes," said Senator Cal Hobson, Vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Oklahoma currently has more than 100 people on death row, all of whom are filing appeals in state and federal court. The Attorney General had requested additional funding to handle the backlog of death row cases in an effort to expedite executions.
"If the Attorney General doesn't have the manpower and the resources to keep up with the death penalty appeals, cases can fall through the cracks and the delays can stretch from months to years.
"We're never going to have swift punishment in capital cases if Governor Keating keeps vetoing the money required to carry out justice," said Senator Hobson.
The Lexington legislator says the Indigent Defense veto, while publicly popular, is equally as damaging.
"I know it may sound good on the campaign trail to say you vetoed funding for indigent defense, but the reality of the situation is if those guys don't have legal representation, their cases get bogged down in the courts and their executions are put on indefinite hold," said Senator Hobson. "It may sound like he's being tough, but in actuality, he's giving convicted killers a break."
What is especially puzzling about the vetoes, according to the Senate leader, is the fact that Governor Keating's recommended budget increases for both the Attorney General and Indigent Defense in his executive budget.
In fact, on page 37 of the executive budget in his recommendation for the Indigent Defense System, the Governor stated "This budget provides $648,000 in additional funding for Capital Trials cases." He also recommended that the AG receive at least an additional $250,000 for operating expenses.
"It's right there in black and white with Governor Keating's name on the budget book, but he still vetoed it. It really defies explanation," said Senator Hobson.
"The Governor has worked very hard to fashion a tough-on-crime image, but these vetoes send the exact opposite signal. The reality doesn't match the rhetoric."
In addition to slowing executions, the Governor's veto will also hinder Attorney General functions such as consumer protection services, general investigations (multi-county grand jury) and victims assistance among other things.