By Rep. Mike Sanders
During our busy weeks of policy and budget work, state lawmakers must also regularly meet and make organizational decisions. The current leader of the House, the Speaker, is leaving due to term limits. In order to have a smooth transition, we elected the individual we want to replace him at the end of the year.
I was pleased to see the House Republican caucus elect my good friend Rep. Charles McCall as the Speaker-designate for the 56th Legislature beginning in February 2017. McCall, an Atoka banker, will be a friend to Western Oklahoma, even though he hails from the Southeast. He was first elected in 2012, after serving as Mayor of Atoka from 2005 to 2012. He understands rural districts and I look forward to working with him and having him out to our district.
A very important criminal justice bill was signed into law on May 9. Since the creation of the “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea, it has been used repeatedly to get criminals off the hook for the crimes they commit. While I do believe there are valid cases in which an individual may be in a state in which they cannot make a moral decision, I think these are few and far between. In particular, serial killers may have a clinically-defined antisocial personality disorder, which could be used to argue for a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity.” It’s a black mark on justice in our state.
The new law will replace the plea with two new pleas – “guilty but with mental defect” and “not guilty by reason of mental illness.” Serial killers, or more specifically, individuals with an antisocial personality disorder, would receive normal sentencing under the “guilty but with mental defect” plea, but would have the additional stipulation that they be examined by the state mental health agency and a treatment would be recommended that would be a conditional part of any probation.
The idea was proposed by Pottawatomie County District Attorney, Richard Smothermon, following a 2012 high profile murder case. East Central University student Jerrod Murray planned and kidnapped fellow classmate, Generro Sanchez, and shot him multiple times. He later confessed that he wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone. Under Oklahoma law, Murray was charged with murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity. He is now held at the Oklahoma Forensic Center, the largest inpatient behavioral health facility in the state system until a psychiatrist or other mental health professional deems it appropriate to let him out. This is simply unacceptable and will not be the kind of outcome we will see under the new law.
Another criminal justic bill was signed into law that will criminalize revenge porn – the unauthorized dissemination of intimate photos or video usually after a relationship has ended. The new law defines the crime as being of a sexual act or of a nude individual disseminated with an intent to harass, intimidate, or coerce and the knowledge that the dissemination was nonconsensual. Someone convicted of the crime can be sentenced to up to one year in a county jail, and a fine. Revenge porn is a disgusting crime and I am proud to be among those who supported its criminalization.
The budget is getting close, but there are still many issues up in the air. Transportation funding, funding for the Rural Fire Defense program and volunteer fire departments through the Oklahoma Department of Agiculture, rural common education funding, hospitals and nursing home funding are still priorities to me and I will continue to fight for them in budget negotiations.
Caucus Elects Speaker-Designate
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