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US Judge's Opinion Sparks Debate of Okla. Practice (Sep 17, 2012)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A federal appeals court judge's rebuke in an Oklahoma death penalty case has sparked renewed debate over the constitutionality of a common practice in state courts - allowing murder victims' relatives recommend to jurors whether the death penalty should be imposed against the perpetrator.

Veteran Oklahoma prosecutors defend the practice. They say jurors who must decide whether a defendant in a first-degree murder case is sentenced to death should have all of the evidence and testimony they can.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the death sentences of a man convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of a wealthy LeFlore County couple. But a dissenting opinion by Judge Carlos F. Lucero complains of repeated violations of defendants' constitutional rights in state death-penalty trials.

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