ENID, Okla. —
Pruitt said violent crime is on the rise in Oklahoma, particularly along the Interstate 44 corridor, due to increased drug trafficking.
“If we don’t get a handle around meth and the trafficking that goes into the drug trade, and the violence that goes with it, it will stifle our economic growth,” Pruitt said. “More importantly, it will make you and I feel less safe.”
Pruitt said state and local authorities need to provide adequate funding for police departments to address rising violent crime rates.
“Boots on the ground matter,” Pruitt said, “and we need to make sure our public safety folks are well-funded and equipped.”
Pruitt commended Enid and Norman for having dedicated public safety sales taxes, and for a corresponding reduction in violent crime.
“We need to learn from cities like Enid and Norman,” Pruitt said.
The Second Amendment
In response to an audience question, Pruitt said he will be watching developments in federal efforts to implement more stringent gun controls.
“I am concerned that perhaps they will take it places that are inconsistent with the Second Amendment,” Pruitt said.
He said he is actively reviewing federal gun control proposals, but to date, “there has been no action taken that would give the state grounds to respond.”
Pruitt said tighter gun control laws likely would affect law-abiding citizens more than criminals.
“Criminals always seem to have access to guns,” Pruitt said. “The people who bear the brunt of new laws are the law-abiding citizens.”
Pruitt said the state should focus on being better equipped to help “soft targets” such as schools and churches, to prevent and respond to violence.
The death penalty
Pruitt said the state needs to streamline the appeals process in death penalty cases.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, and our system takes way too long to carry out the most serious process,” Pruitt said.
“We need to make sure they receive their due process,” Pruitt said of death row inmates, “but once that’s been accomplished, we need to make sure we’re not delaying the process and re-victimizing the victims over and over again.”
During the question-and-answer portion of Friday’s meeting, Enid attorney Robert Faulk asked Pruitt if he was familiar with the case of Milke vs. Ryan, an Arizona case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in which a woman was exonerated after spending 22 years on death row.
Pruitt said he was familiar with the case, but he also was familiar with cases in which victims and their families “had to wait way too long for justice.”
“Of course we don’t want to see someone wrongfully convicted, but what I see personally in the appeals process is the opposite happening,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the courts should be left to decide guilt or innocence, and to decide appeals in a timely fashion.
“There is a very important role for the courts to play,” Pruitt said. “Lets let the court system do its work, and let it play out.”
In a brief interview after Pruitt’s address, Faulk said the recent case out of Arizona highlights the need for more thorough, not shorter, appeals processes.
“Aside from the fact it took 22 years to get this woman off death row, and her civil rights were horribly violated, how does he square that with further reform on death penalty cases?” Faulk asked, referring to Pruitt’s comments.
“If you speed up the appeals process, you increase the chance that innocent people will be put to death,” Faulk said, “and I would rather take 20 years to complete the process than have one innocent person put to death.”