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Prosecutors say Oklahoma justice reform talks overlook victims

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Lavenue
Lavenue

At a ceremony Wednesday, prosecutors complained legislators are forgetting crime victims in their efforts to address prison overcrowding.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said elected officials give only "lip service" to victims and are not allowing them to have input in "justice reform" conversations.

"I'm sick of it. I'm tired of it," he said at the ceremony for Oklahoma Crime Victims' Rights Day.

"I appreciate the proclamations and the resolutions and the elected officials getting up on this stage and other places and telling you how important victims' rights and services are. But unless it's followed up with action, it just doesn't matter. Hold people accountable," Prater said.

Brian Hermanson, president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, said he has not heard any talk about victims in any reform conversations this year.

"From November to now, there's been a huge change," said Hermanson, the district attorney of Kay and Noble counties. "And I encourage all of us to use the word, 'victim,' in every conversation we have with the Legislature. Talk about victims. Talk about why don't you use as a litmus test, when you look at any legislation, how will this help the victim. ... How will this protect the public. That needs to be the litmus test, not just trying to not be No. 1 in incarceration."

Gov. Kevin Stitt promised victims they "have a seat at the table."

"You have a voice," he said at the ceremony.

Honored at the ceremony with a Governor's Commendation Award was Suzanne Lavenue, an Oklahoma County assistant district attorney for more than 28 years.

Lavenue, who prosecuted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols in his 2004 state murder trial, retired last year. Prater nominated her for the award, writing she "dedicated her professional life to advocating for, defending and loving on victims in her cases."

"She has an incredible servant's heart," he said at the ceremony of her public service.

Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›

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